By Richard Phillips and Dr. Lorne Hepworth
Nine billion people. This will be the population of our planet by 2050, according to the United Nations, and it seems like a pretty fair bet given that we just welcomed the seven billionth person last fall.
CropLife Canada and the Grain Growers of Canada believe this population size is in fact sustainable and that Canada can play a leadership role in helping to feed the world. Already, even after Canada has consumed all the home grown food it needs, we are left with an additional $9 billion worth of crops and food products to sell to the world. We need to do more, though, than simply export food from Canada. We also need to export the tools for economic development and growth. This is why we are highly supportive of the Canadian International Development Agency’s new Economic Growth Strategy.
CIDA has a long and proud history of delivering Canadian aid during times of crisis, but it also has a strong track record of fostering long-term development. Many may be surprised to learn that rapidly emerging and modern markets such as Brazil, Thailand, Costa Rica and South Korea were all development partners of CIDA until very recently.
What CIDA can help to do, and what it plans to do with its new strategy, is help governments in developing countries to build the necessary legislative and regulatory frameworks to allow for economic growth. From our perspective, fair, transparent, science based regulation has been vital to our success, both in Canada and abroad. When investors see a stable, predictable regulatory environment, they see a place primed for success. That is what they see in Canada, and that is what we need them to see in emerging markets.
There is also recognition from CIDA that government alone cannot do it all, and that leveraging the strength of the private sector will help to maximize the investments of Canadian taxpayers. Globally, we have already seen many examples of private sector involvement in highly successful projects such as:
* Cassava is a vital crop in many parts of Africa. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and partners in the BioCassava Plus project. This is designed to develop cassava varieties with higher levels of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, as well as iron, and protein. This research is developing varieties appropriate for small farmers in Nigeria and Kenya, where cassava is widely consumed and nutrient deficiencies are prevalent.
* By sharing agricultural knowledge with the public International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, private sector companies have helped to develop new commercially available maize varieties that adapt to local conditions in developing nations, and wheat varieties protected against diseases that can wipe out entire crops.
* The private sector has supported the South African Developing Agriculture Project, working with local farmers to increase and safeguard crop yields by adopting modern agriculture practices.
In the Canadian agricultural sector, our Canadian farmers and crop science members are keenly interested in international development, and want to do what they can to assist in strengthening agriculture in emerging markets. Agriculture often provides the first and most accessible export products for emerging economies – if host governments welcome modern agriculture, and embrace science-based regulation, a thriving agriculture sector can follow.
Canada can, and must, do more to help humankind around the globe.
We need to do it, however, in a smart, strategic manner, partnering with public institutions, utilizing the market place and maximizing the innovative capacities of the private sector to make it happen. We are pleased to see CIDA’s revitalization of its mandate for Canadian international development, and we look forward to working with CIDA in securing a strong and vibrant economic future for other countries around the world.
Richard Phillips is the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada and Dr. Lorne Hepworth is president of CropLife Canada.