Canadian Aid to Smallholder Farmers in Developing Countries

In much of the developing world, farmers with two acres of land or less make up the majority of the workforce and produce most of the food.  More than half are women.  Working with these smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods is an effective way to reduce poverty and hunger.  Yet from 1980 until around 2007, the percentage of international aid directed to agriculture declined from  about 18% to less than 4%.  This under-investment in agriculture is one factor that led to the global food crisis in 2007-08, when fears over food shortages caused prices of rice and other grains to triple in a few months.

What are we trying to do?

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank encourages the Canadian government to make agriculture a priority in its development work and to target interventions to the most vulnerable, including women and smallholder farmers. The 2009 policy brief  outlined what we hoped Canada would include in its food security strategy. 

What have we accomplished?

CIDA launched its Food Security Strategy in 2009, which included a doubling of aid for agriculture. This Strategy includes food assistance, nutrition, research and agricultural development.

Under agriculture, Canada focuses on smallholder farmers, especially women, and encourages agro-ecological approaches that boost farmers’ resilience to climate change. Much of this aid is aligned with the national goals set by the countries that receive the aid. In 2010, Canada led other donor nations in the percentage of aid allocated to food security.

We see strong evidence  that our advocacy work (from staff and constituents and through coalitions) has been effective in influencing the Food Security Strategy, including the focus on women, smallholders and agro-ecological approaches. 

What are we still working on?

We are encouraging Canada to maintain strong support for food security, and to deliver high quality programming that meets the needs of smallholder farmers.
The 2009 Food Security Strategy included three years of funding commitments (2008/09 through 2010/11).  We urge the government to maintain the food security theme post-2011, even as CIDA is merged into the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and as overall aid levels decline. 

In 2011, the Foodgrains Bank and other development organizations published a discussion paper that highlighted success stories in working with smallholder farmers, drawn from our own programming in developing countries. This paper provided the basis for a workshop with CIDA staff on how CIDA and NGOs could achieve high-quality programming. 

In 2013, we published an independent assessment of CIDA’s food security work, drawn from research in two of CIDA’s countries of focus. This demonstrated that Canada is on the right track and should continue to invest in food security. It also pointed out areas for improvement. We are now using this assessment in discussion with government officials.

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Fertile Ground:An assessment of CIDA’s investments in food and farming, July 2013

Fertile Ground:An assessment of CIDA’s investments in food and farming, July 2013

An assessment of CIDA’s investments in food and farming, July 2013