Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

Third McGill Conference on Global Food Security "Addressing the Water and Nutrition Challenges"

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Montréal, Quebec
October 19, 2010

The Speakers© ACDI-CIDA/Benoit Desjardins
Photo 2 - The Speakers: From left to right:
Moderator : Daniel Jutras. Dean, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Dr. David Nabarro United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition
The Honorable Beverley J. Oda. Minister of International Cooperation
Chandra A. Madramootoo. Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science, McGill University
Anthony C. Masi, Provost, McGill University
Good evening.

I would like to thank David for his continued efforts in leading the UN's High Level Task Force on Food Security and Nutrition.

He helped set the global agenda on food security and nutrition and tonight he's helped advance discussions, particularly regarding the theme of your conference, Food Security, Water Scarcity and Nutrition—the Challenges.

And thank you, David, for your participation in the G-8 development ministers meeting I chaired in Halifax, in April, in preparation for the Muskoka G-8 Summit.

In fact, we've been working together over the past year to ensure that Canada and other donors are making a difference and managing for results.

This means having the right results framework, and the right indicators to measure our progress in all sectors, including water and nutrition.

Food security is a complex issue that requires complex solutions.

You can't grow food without the right agricultural conditions and sufficient water.

You can't increase productivity without the knowledge of how to get the most out of the land available to you.

You can't improve the health of people unless you maximize the nutritional value of the produce and livestock being delivered.

You can't get food to the people who need it without a system that links farmers to markets.

And while the understanding of food as a basic human need must always be respected, we must always remember the indisputable link between food security, agriculture, and sustainable economic growth.

All of this calls for a comprehensive and integrated approach.

Recently, we've been presented with challenges that are threatening the gains we've been making in our development work.

The food crisis of 2007 and 2008 increased the number of people facing extreme hunger and starvation.

The global economic crisis put strains on the most vulnerable as costs grew and resources were limited.

And we cannot turn a blind eye to the issue of climate change.

These three major factors have presented all of us with additional challenges in the complex world of development.

The Canadian International Development Agency has been working closely with other donors and our international and Canadian partners to put our heads and wallets together—for greater impact.

We recognize that a comprehensive and integrated approach to water and nutrition is the only way to make real progress on food security and healthier populations.

We know that integrating health, agriculture, rural development, environment, sustainable economic growth, and education produces the most meaningful development results.

We know that having access to good, potable water for drinking and irrigation and sanitation is absolutely critical for healthy communities and sustainable agriculture.

Desertification reduces the land's resilience to natural variations in climate and disrupts the natural cycle of water and nutrient turnover.

Furthermore, land degradation threatens the sustainability of crop production through eroded lands and reduced yields.

The vulnerability of small-scale farmers increases as the pressures to grow more food on land of lesser quality increases.

Canada believes we must increase and share research and knowledge about such issues as how to become more resilient to natural disasters and the use of drought-resistant seeds with the small-scale farmers, who are the backbone of agriculture in developing countries.

That is why, as part of Canada's new food security strategy, CIDA and the International Development Research Centre have launched the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, or CIFS Research Fund, to support practical applied food security research in developing countries.

And I would like to congratulate McGill University on establishing the McGill Institute on Global Food Security that will be training the next generation of researchers whose work, hopefully, will be supported by the CIFS Research Fund in the future.

This fund builds on Canada's longstanding contribution as a founding member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR.

The World Bank estimates that, for every dollar invested in research by CGIAR, more than $9 worth of additional food is produced in developing countries.

This past year, we have contributed $32.5 million to two CGIAR programs.

First, Harvest Plus, which focuses on bio-fortification to increase the micronutrient values of staple foods.

Harvest Plus is scaling up the use of Vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes in East Africa, particularly in Uganda and Mozambique.

And, secondly, CGIAR's Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security program, which explores new ways of helping vulnerable rural communities adjust to the impact of climate change.

Through this kind of support for research and development, Canada hopes that successes such as CIDA's initiative in Africa to develop 101 new bean varieties that are resistant to diseases and tolerate poor soil conditions will be duplicated.

These new bean varieties were made available to more than 35 million low-income people in Africa, where bean consumption is the highest in the world.

This project also allowed nearly 3 million farmers—more than half of them women—to use new approaches to soil, pest, and disease management.

One of the biggest challenges to food security in developing countries is gaining access to quality, nutritious food.

It's not just about getting food on tables—it's about getting better, more nutritious food, on those tables.

It's a tragedy that millions of the world's most vulnerable do not get enough iron, iodine, Vitamin A, folic acid, and zinc in their diets, leading to illness, blindness, impaired mental development, and death.

That is why our own Muskoka G-8 initiative for maternal, newborn, and child health puts special emphasis on nutrition—because we recognize the catalytic effect it can have on the lives of mothers and young children.

And a key focus of our food security strategy also identifies the importance of nutrition.

Our work with the global partnership for scaling-up nutrition is helping to bring global attention to this largely forgotten aspect of food security&8213;as is our significant support for Canada's Micronutrient Initiative.

The Micronutrient Initiative has been investing in new and innovative ways to increase the nutritional values of food and has, for example, established, in partnership with the World Food Programme, a women's cooperative in Senegal that is now producing iodized salt for many West African countries.

Even in Canada's humanitarian work, nutrition is an important consideration.

For example, when rising food costs and hurricanes hit Haiti, affecting more than 800,000 people, Canada, through Oxfam-Québec, helped small-scale farmers rebuild and add vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants to their family diets.

One of CIDA's core messages in our development work, including in our food security strategy, is that women are key—key to food security—because, as small-scale farmers, they are the backbone of agriculture in developing countries and because they are the guardians of family nutrition.

It is important to remember that 500 million small-scale farmers feed more than 2 billion people—or one-third of humanity.

In many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, the majority of these farmers are women.

They are, quite literally, the backbone of the rural economy and the key to healthy families and communities, particularly among the poorest of these.

And because women are the lynchpin of small-scale agriculture in developing countries, they MUST be at the centre of any food security strategy.

That is why Canada has increased its support to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, making Canada the fifth largest contributor.

IFAD is helping more than 340 million small-scale farmers—mostly women—to improve their business practices, adapt to climate change, rehabilitate their farmlands, access finance, and develop their markets.

And we all know that empowering women with literacy, education, and knowledge lifts the education of future generations, improves the health of families, and supports the stability of communities.

We share these objectives in our collective efforts to reduce poverty and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Achieving the results we strive for means maximizing the impact of our aid and development dollars through comprehensive and integrated approaches on the part of all participants, especially at the country level.

It means ensuring that the historic segmented divisions of our work and vertical approaches are more closely aligned.

It means supporting country strategies and plans, particularly of those countries that recognize the need for not only a food security strategy but also a nutrition plan.

It requires donor countries to make meaningful commitments and to fulfill their pledges, as well as being accountable for their commitments and the results achieved.

And because we can't manage what we cannot measure, it requires the international community to establish and agree on common sets of quality indicators and willingness to have results measured against those indicators.

And it also means our willingness to be transparent and report regularly on the progress being achieved and the challenges we are facing.

It was only a few weeks ago that we discussed the progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals at the United Nations MDG Summit in New York.

There, I was struck by the fact that, never before in the history of international efforts, had so many development partners been aligned in their commitments, in their pledges for accountability, and their willingness to look to innovation and concrete actions to reach the MDGs by 2015.

Canada is proud to be part of this renewed pledge of concrete action.

As I said in my opening, development work is very complex.

Food security for the entire globe is even more complex.

Despite the challenges we presently face, the ones yet to be brought upon us, and how much work that still needs to be done, I have faith that, going forward, our collective efforts will have an even more powerful impact.

Thank you.

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