Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

The Food Security Strategy

Speaking notes for the Honourable Beverley J. Oda
Minister of International Cooperation at the Canadian Wheat Board Center for Grain Storage Research at the University of Manitoba.

October 16, 2009

Thank you and good afternoon. And thank you all for joining us today on World Food Day. I also appreciate of course the introduction and also the cooperation and I think you're about two seats over from me so you are a truly close colleague, Vic Toews, the President of the Treasury Board. We were just joking about how important it is to stay on the right side of the Minister there because he does have to sign off on all of our big expenditures.

But I'll tell you something. He is very supportive of the work that Canada does overseas in developing countries.

And my thanks to Dr Wittenberg and the faculty for such a warm welcome and for hosting us this morning at the University. Last May, at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre, I outlined the steps that we were taking to ensure increased efficiency, transparency and focus.

In Toronto, I laid out three thematic focusses that would guide CIDA's work going forward: increasing food security; stimulating economic growth; and securing the future for children and youth.

Today, on World Food Day, when we in Canada have much to be thankful for, I'd like to share with you CIDA's Food Security Strategy and Plan of Action. Largely due to higher food prices, the FAO estimated that the number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008. Today, the structural causes of the food crisis remain: low investment in agricultural production; lack of farm credit; increased input costs; and an emphasis on cash crops for export. And compounding that we now find ourselves in the midst of a global economic recession.

It was predicted that the impact of the economic crisis would move over a billion people into chronic hunger and near starvation. And, unfortunately, that prediction is now a global reality. And the challenges we face are even greater.

The head of the World Food Programme has said "Food is at the basis of human survival." In fact, hunger and malnutrition cause more deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. As Ms. Sheeran at the WFP often points out, hunger and starvation inevitably lead to only three things: migration; rebellion; or death. And as we all know, without an adequate food supply, sustainable development is impossible. That's why food security is a key thematic focus for CIDA.

We've chosen three paths in our strategy: food aid and nutrition; agricultural support; and research and development. Let me begin with food aid, an area in which Canada has a sound foundation on which to build.

Last year, in 2008, Canada was the third largest single country donor to the World Food Programme. And Canada will continue to respond to urgent food-related emergencies. Just last month, Canada was the first country to respond to a worldwide appeal and provide $30 million for food aid to drought victims in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. And last year we untied all of our food aid. Up to that point, half of Canada's food aid had to be bought in Canada. According to the OECD, untying our food aid means that we can gain 30 to 35 percent more efficiency. CIDA's food aid can now reach those who need it faster at a lower cost as well as support local agricultural development.

And I want to point out that more food aid was bought from Canadian sources last year than in the year before when our food aid was still tied. And I want to thank all Canadian farmers and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, our largest Canadian partner in our food aid program for their support of our decision to untie. (Applause.)

As we move forward, CIDA will work with our partners on new ways to procure and manage food stocks so they can better respond in a timely way to emergencies. That's why, as part of the Prime Minister's commitment at the G-8 Summit this year, Canada will support the World Food Programme's Purchase for Progress initiative specifically two P4P pilots—one in Ghana and one in Afghanistan—with $30 million.

Through P4P, the World Food Programme commits to purchasing locally-grown food from low income and small holder farmers benefiting their families and their communities. Our support led the World Food Programme to call Canada one of its most secure and creative partners on the front lines of hunger.

Upon taking office in 2006, our government inherited a shortfall on Canada's commitment to the Food Aid Convention from the previous government. We've not only made up that shortfall, we have in fact met Canada's Food Aid Convention commitment every year we've been in office and even exceeded our targets. We also increased our base commitment to $230 million annually—a 50 million annual increase.

Because of our government's leadership, Canada was voted the vice-chair of the Food Aid Convention this year and will become the chair next year. As vice-chair, we were able to have micro nutrients added to the list of food items under the convention, important because we know that good health depends not only on getting enough food but also the right kinds of food. Today, malnourishment leads to serious illness, blindness, mental disorders and death among the world's most vulnerable. In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus found that investing in micro nutrients was the single most effective use of aid dollars in the world.

For example, Canada's provision of Vitamin A tablets alone prevented more than two million child deaths. Under our Food Security Strategy, CIDA will increase our micro nutrient programming. And we'll promote nutrient supplements such as Vitamin A and food fortification like salt iodization as an integral part of food security programs worldwide.

Canada was the first country to provide sustained funding to the WFP's School Feeding Program and CIDA will continue its support for School Feeding Programs to ensure that children get a nutritious meal every day. Our focus on nutrition, particularly for children, will exceed $250 million over three years including this year.

In the mid-1900s Roberto Goizueta wrote, "The secret isn't counting the beans, it's growing more beans." This is a truth that the second path in our Food Security Strategy will follow.

Agriculture is central to livelihoods, a primary source of economic prosperity, human health and social well-being in developing countries. Over three decades of decreasing global investment in agriculture in developing countries from 17 percent to three percent of all aid has significantly contributed to today's food crisis. In fact, the UNFAO reported yesterday that world hunger is getting worse and international aid for agriculture continues to plummet. The World Bank estimates that global food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050 to keep up with the increasing demand. We must help developing countries become more self-reliant in feeding their populations.

And according to the 2008 World Development Report, agriculture-related growth is four times more effective in reducing poverty than other sectors. In the poorest country, 80 percent of the world poor depend in one form or another on farming to gain their livelihoods. So CIDA will increase its support for agricultural development to achieve sustainable long-term food security while contributing to economic growth.

In July of this year, Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada was committing an additional $600 million for agricultural development over three years. As part of this commitment, Canada's support for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, will total $75 million over three years, making Canada the world's fourth largest contributor. IFAD is helping more than 340 million small holder farmers improve their business practices, rehabilitate their farmlands, access finance and develop their markets.

CIDA will also work closely with developing country governments, regional institutions and other stakeholders to strengthen our strategies on agricultural productivity. We will encourage countries to plan for the future, support national and regional agricultural strategies and help them access technology and knowhow to improve food production practices that are strategic and sustainable. This means looking down the value chain and identifying projects that can make a real difference for an agricultural-based society.

For example, in Afghanistan, we're rehabilitating the Dhala Dam and its irrigation and canal systems, generating jobs and increasing the productivity of a fertile region in that country. It could also mean building cold storage or processing facilities, technology transfers, or improving the marketing of their harvest. To be effective, our work in agriculture will call for greater cooperation among governments, donors and NGO organizations so that all of our efforts with increased coherence will result in meaningful sustainable advancement.

CIDA is determined to make a difference with this kind of focus and determination and by more than doubling our current investment in agricultural support to $1.2 billion over three years. However, agriculture at its best is challenging, as many of you know. Input costs are high. Livestock are stricken with disease. Yields must be improved and the climate constantly tests us.

In developing countries, this means constantly finding new solutions to achieve and sustain food security. However, over the past 30 years, as investments in agricultural research in these countries declined, agricultural productivity and global food security also declined.

But Canada has a strong tradition of research and innovation in agriculture. Canada in fact is in fact a founding member and top financial supporter of the Canada Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, or as we call it, CIGAR (ph), and CGIAR is one of the world's top agricultural research organizations. The World Bank estimates that for every dollar, every dollar invested in research by CGIAR, more than nine dollars worth of additional food is produced in developing countries.

As part of Canada's G-8 commitment to agriculture, we will be supporting two CGIAR challenge programs. The first, Harvest Plus, focusses on bio-fortification to increase the micro nutrient values of staple foods. The second challenge program explores new ways to help vulnerable rural communities adjust to the impacts of climate change.

And to complement Canada's enhanced investment in CGIAR, today I am pleased to announce the creation of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund in partnership with IDRC to support applied collaborative research with developing countries with $50 million from CIDA and $11.7 million from IDRC. (Applause.) The CIFS Research Fund will finance applied research that seeks to find practical and concrete solutions to challenges on the ground in the developing countries.

Our Canadian expertise and knowledge in dry land farming and rehabilitation, the reduction of post-harvest losses and animal vaccines will be especially valuable to developing countries. Areas of future research could include crop resilience, enhancing the nutritional value of crops and finding ways to stop diseases that affect plants and animals. With the CIFS Research Fund, our goal is to see results that are accessible to small holder farmers, particularly in Africa and Asia, the majority of whom are women. Results that have the potential for commercialization and are of direct benefit to the food insecure.

Adding to the 33 agriculture research projects that CIDA currently supports, we are making these new strategic R&D investments hoping to make measurable strides towards greater food security for millions of people in the future. For Goizueta's bean counters, I can tell you that over three years, including this year, CIDA's food security thematic focus, our strategy will be supported with a minimum of $690 million in food aid, over $250 million towards nutrition, over $875 million towards agricultural support and over $130 million towards research.

But for the true, the true bean grower who wants to deliver real results on food security, our efforts must be efficient, focussed and accountable. And CIDA will follow its aid effectiveness agenda by seeking projects and programs that are sustainable and include building local capacity, are developed through consultations with government and local communities, projects and programs that are integrated with national or regional poverty reduction strategies and agricultural plans where they exist and clearly identify expected outcomes both quantifiable and qualitative that can be reported to all Canadians. CIDA will report annually on its food security support in our annual Development for Results Report.

We've thought long and carefully about our food security work. We've consulted with experts in Canada and abroad. Our partner countries and institutions advised us on the most effective approach on how they can take on more direct responsibility to make a sustainable difference. With one-sixth of the world's population food insecure we need to be strategic and focussed on the task ahead. Today, despite worldwide efforts and billions of dollars, hunger and near starvation continue to threaten the world's most vulnerable. That's why I believe that food security demands Canada's best efforts.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and World Food Day, it is appropriate to renew our commitment to those living in poverty so they one day can enjoy healthy meals and get the most out of their day at school or go to work to earn an income for their families. I know that with our concerted efforts, Canada can make a difference.

And I truly believe, as we work together, and if we are committed, we have to address hunger, we have to address food shortage and we are committed and with your support we will make strides.

So thank you very much for your attention.