VIDEO: Foreign ag aid has ‘nosedived’

Canadian Foodgrains Bank says agricultural aid directly helps poor women and children

One of the best ways to help poor women and children in developing nations is to teach them how to farm better, says the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

That’s why cuts to the foreign aid budget for agriculture is hurting the federal government’s professed commitment to improving maternal and newborn child health, said Paul Hagerman, the foodgrains bank’s director of public policy.

“It’s really nosedived,” Hagerman said about Canada’s agriculture aid budget since 2012. “We’re down to where we were before.”

Hagerman said foreign agriculture aid is often the most direct way to help women and children be-cause increasing the amount of food that poor farmers grow in-creases the diversity of food that is available for women to feed their children, which in turn improves the health of those women and children.

The federal government doubled foreign agriculture aid after the 2008 food price spike to $450 million from $250 million.

The price spike hurt millions of poor people who could not afford food and caused social unrest and increased malnutrition.

Hagerman said the increase in funding helped a lot, as projects in Ethiopia and Honduras demonstrated, but the government continues to proclaim its support for maternal and newborn child health, despite the budget reductions of the last three years.

U2 front man Bono was recently in Ottawa talking with prime minister Stephen Harper about mother and child health, and Hagerman said now is a good time to lobby the government and opposition politicians to restore the lost funding.

“With an election coming up before long, MPs of all parties could have an impact,” he said. “Write to your MP. Talk to your MP.”

A Harvest of Letters campaign on the foodgrains bank’s website urges supporters to voice their support for foreign agriculture aid to the federal government.

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