Our Expertise

Discover Our Expertise.

Strengthening families and communities through co-operatives

Co-operatives and credit unions are powerful tools that create long-term growth and prosperity in communities around the globe. With over 70 years of on-the-ground experience in international development, CDF Canada has helped local partners in over 40 developing countries create and strengthen co-operative enterprises and networks. Each creates jobs and opportunities, mobilizes savings and loans, reduces vulnerability, improves nutrition and livelihoods, helps women and men govern their co-operatives democratically, and access the opportunities and resources they need. We support co-op federations in providing services to member co-operatives and work with governments to enact co-op friendly laws and regulations.

Our expertise resides in the lessons we carry forward from each project we undertake and in the individuals we mobilize from the Canadian co-operative sector and beyond. Our philosophy and approach integrates careful consideration of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the promotion of financial inclusion, and resilience and environmental sustainability.

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CDF Canada’s Areas of Work

1. Closing the Gap on Gender Inequality

Through co-operatives, women and men can become agents of social change and improve the socio-economic status of their families and communities. CDF Canada works to promote gender equality in its programs because it is a basic human right, and because long-term sustainable development can only be achieved if men and women have mutual access to the opportunities and resources they need to thrive. We seek to promote women’s empowerment and leadership in decision-making, ensuring equitable access to (and control over) the resources and benefits of co-operative development.

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2. Promoting Financial Inclusion

Basic financial services are beyond the reach of many people whom commercial banks deem to be ineligible as clients because they lack credit or assets. Our programs link these ‘unbankable’ men and women to co-operatives or credit unions that they can govern as members and rely on for their financial well-being. Credit unions provide safe places to grow savings, access loans, start small businesses and rebound against unexpected events with insurance. Through capacity-building, innovative technologies, inclusive products and services, and promoting good governance, we help strengthen the entire microfinance sector of the countries where we work. Our global exchange programs allow us to disseminate our good practices, innovations and lessons learned.

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3. Strengthening Resilience & Sustainability

CDF Canada recognizes the relationship that farmers have with the environment, and how even minor climate changes can affect their ability to feed their families and make a living. CDF Canada is committed to helping people adapt to climate change so that the gains they make are sustainable well into the future. Working together in co-operatives, members build greater resilience to environmental shocks and other risks by adopting more sustainable agricultural practices. Improved farming methods help increase people’s incomes, and ensures greater food security and resilience to climate change.

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CDF Canada’s Added Value

Strengthening Capacity

We make it possible for individuals and communities to build their capacity and create economic opportunity based on co-operative principles. Using appropriate training and ensuring that the experience, knowledge and interests of women and men influence our activities, CDF Canada builds capacity in boards of directors, managers, employees and members of co-operative enterprises. CDF Canada mobilizes individuals to learn innovative tools, skills and approaches, whether it’s marketing and negotiations, improved agricultural production, or gender equality.


Enhancing business planning and growth

CDF Canada helps co-operatives generate income. We provide technical assistance to design business plans that increase the value of co-operative businesses, to better identify and respond to market opportunities, and to make better use of information technology.


Enabling policy and regulation

CDF Canada works directly with co-operative representatives and government officials to create or improve policy and regulatory environments for credit unions and other financial intermediaries; for farmers and agricultural producers; and for micro, small and medium sized co-operatives and enterprises.


Mobilizing knowledge and learning

CDF Canada is a learning organization that continuously improves its work and the work of its partners.  We empower our project partners and their co-operative members to identify training opportunities and improve their operational efficiencies. Additionally, we employ a Results Based Management approach to projects, focussing on outcomes, performance measurement, and learning and adaptation.


Championing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through our Work

CDF Canada works with its partners to address gender inequality and socio-economic differences so that they can create truly inclusive and empowering spaces. This means women and men have equal access to the opportunities and resources they need to be active members in their communities; from individual households and businesses, to national policy dialogues and decisions.

CDF Canada believes that promoting women’s empowerment and leadership is critical to achieving greater gender equality overall, and that targeted programming is often required to help balance the historical disadvantages experienced by women. CDF Canada also recognizes the importance of working and engaging with men to achieve these goals.


Applying a Resilience & Environmental Sustainability Lens to Our Programming

CDF Canada works with its partners to apply an integrated approach to food security and income generation that equips farmers to adapt to climate change and lower their risk, while improving sustainable agricultural production.

Co-operatives make it possible for smallholder farmers to achieve economies of scale through collective marketing and supply. Co-operatives also provide collaborative, hands-on learning to enable farmers to improve their farming methods, enhance their production and minimize their environmental impact. The co-operative approach produces economic and environmental benefits that help smallholder farmers to continue to improve and succeed beyond the life of any project.

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