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Women key to international food security

Canadian International Development Agency | Investment in small scale farms improves production and livelihoods

The Canadian government says its international development efforts to fight world hunger concentrate on programs to help small-scale women farmers who hold the key to developing world food production.

Lois Brown, parliamentary secretary to international co-operation minister Bev Oda, said in a March 27 Ottawa speech that the agricultural focus of the Canadian International Development Agency is smallholder farmers, especially women.

“Women are quite literally the engine of the rural economy and guardians of family nutrition, especially in the poorest communities,” she told a conference on private-public partnership in agriculture sponsored by the International Development Research Council and the Syngenta Foundation set up by Swiss-based agri-food company Syngenta.

Brown noted that the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers feed more than two billion people, close to one-third of the world’s population.

“Because of their far-reaching impact, food security will only be realized when smallholder farmers are empowered to access crucial production resources such as new technologies, training, extension services, finances and markets,” she said.

“Closing the gender gap in agricultural inputs alone could lift 100 million to 150 million people out of hunger.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates there now are more than 900 million chronically malnourished people in the world.

“Because women are the linchpin of smallholder agriculture, they must be at the centre of any food security strategy,” said Oda.

Brown mentioned CIDA investments in international programs aimed at research, nutrition education and training for small scale farmers to help them improve business practices, develop markets, upgrade their land base and adjust to the effects of climate change.

She said CIDA also supports development partnerships with private companies that are willing to invest in developing-world projects.

“We know that we can achieve our development goals and help businesses grow,” she told the conference held over two days March 26-27 in IDRC head offices.

“CIDA wants to encourage steady flows of private investment that can bring capital, knowledge and new technology to farmers and their communities.

Brown said CIDA is supporting the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program that encourages the private sector to finance development projects.

Recently, it announced financing to expand a Bangladeshi food processing and fruit pulping operation.

“In addition to creating over 1,200 new jobs, the project will positively impact the livelihood of several thousand farmers and their communities by ensuring consistent demand and fair pricing for their produce,” said Brown.

It is “the first of many high-impact successful proposals” that will be approved, she said.

“We know that the private sector’s strengths include knowledge and expertise, innovation and the financial and human resources it can bring to the table.”

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