Canada’s work in global food security draws praise from independent study

Canada has fulfilled its 2009 promise to double investment in global food security, says a recent independent assessment of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Canada now invests more in basic nutrition than any other donor country around the world, and makes the largest per capita commitment to food assistance, says Fertile Ground, Assessing CIDA’s Investments in Food and Farming.

Overall, the study found CIDA’s work was well funded and well targeted, said Danuta Swiecicka, African program officer for Africa for the Canadian Hunger Foundation, one of 20 organizations that conducted the study.

“It’s a pretty positive report,” she said. “CIDA is really doing a great job of making sure that funding for agriculture, and for nutrition and food security is maintained, and that’s what we want to see as a food security policy group.”

The study examined in detail at the agency’s work in Ethiopia and Honduras, reviewed statistics on Canada’s spending on food security, and analyzed the impact of other Canadian policies and programming on global food security.

Following the 2009 pledge, the agency upped spending in Ethiopia by 75 per cent and by 400 per cent in Honduras, and farmers in both countries who received aid gave the agency high marks. That was especially the case with smallholders and women. The latter often do most of the farming in developing countries, but often don’t have control over land, finances or other resources, the report said.

CIDA is also succeeding at integrating nutrition into broader food security work, helping farmers adapt to climate change, and local governments improve their agricultural policies, it said.

But farmers and farm groups also say they are not being consulted enough, and lack opportunity to share their own concerns or give feedback on their own government’s initiatives.

“Our research found smallholder farmers in Honduras and Ethiopia felt that neither their own governments nor CIDA made much effort to listen to their views on food security,” the report said.

The report also calls for increased transparency from the agency, urging it to share information and highlight success stories.

It also raises concerns federal policies aimed at promoting Canadian agriculture could undermine the agency’s “good work.”

“There are cases where Canada’s promotion of agricultural exports may conflict with the objectives of the Food Security Strategy,” it says.

“Also, Canada’s poor track record in international climate negotiations does little to address the concerns of farmers in many countries, who identify climate change as a serious risk now and into the future.”

The report’s authors were also concerned about what the future holds.

In 2012, Ottawa announced it would cut its overall aid program by eight per cent over the next three years. More recently, the government said it will merge CIDA with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

That raises questions about the role of food security in the new department, the report says.

“We hope that food security does remain a priority for the government of Canada,” Swiecicka said.

“We basically want to sustain the progress that Canada has made over these last few years.”

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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