WINNIPEG — One of the most effective ways to reduce poverty in the world is to invest aid dollars in agriculture.
That’s the key finding of Money in the pocket, food on the table: the economic case for investing in agricultural development, a new report from Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The report, part of Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s new Good Soil campaign, notes that economic growth that originates from agriculture is at least twice as effective at fighting poverty in the developing world as growth from other sectors, such as manufacturing, and that improvements in agriculture can also lead to overall economic prosperity for many low-income countries.
“If we want to make a real difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people, most of whom are small-scale farmers, we need to encourage more and better aid for small-scale farming,” says Paul Hagerman, director of public policy for the Foodgrains Bank.
Through the Good Soil campaign, the Foodgrains Bank is urging the Canadian government to further strengthen its support for small-scale farmers by investing at least $450 million per year in agricultural aid to developing countries.
In developing countries, 86 per cent of rural people make their living from agriculture. For these farmers, improvements on their farms mean more income that they can spend on buying additional food, hiring farm labourers, paying school fees and making purchases in their local communities — a benefit for the entire economy.
Over the years, money from donor countries, such as Canada, to support agriculture has fluctuated widely, Hagerman notes.
Following the global food crisis in 2007 — 08, Canada became a global leader in supporting agricultural development, in particular for agricultural extension, education and research — areas that have a positive impact for farmers.
For long-term gains in agricultural development, this support needs to be sustained, Hagerman says.
“Done well, restoring Canada’s aid for agriculture to $450 million per year, the average provided between 2008 and 2011, will enable more farmers to grow food to feed their families sustainably, increase their prosperity and self-sufficiency, and contribute to their country’s economy,” he notes.
The Foodgrains Bank is partnering with a number of its member agencies in the Good Soil campaign, including Mennonite Central Committee Canada and World Renew.
“Just as good soil is the foundation for a good farm, so support from our government for small-scale farmers can be foundational for their success,” says Kristen VanderBerg, communications manager for World Renew, the development arm of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.