Canadian Aid Makes a Difference
Women farmers play a key role in ending global hunger
Did you know 79 percent of women in least developed countries derive their income from agriculture? However, they still face many barriers to equality, and in most countries are more likely than men to face hunger. Increased hunger due to COVID-19 will likely be experienced first by women, who often sacrifice their own food consumption in times of need.
Small-scale farmers around the world—many of whom are women—are under a lot of stress. While they grow most of the food consumed in their countries, they have limited resources and often struggle to feed their families. Women farmers have less access to land, seeds, formal and informal education, and finance. They are also busy with caring for children and elderly family members, collecting water and doing other unpaid chores, leaving little time to flourish in their farm work.
The COVID-19 pandemic will particularly impact women. They may have no choice but to keep working when they’re ill. They may need to spend even more time caring for family members who are ill or children who are unable to attend school. The economic and mental stress caused by the pandemic is likely to increase violence in their homes.
It is deeply unjust that our global neighbours who farm to feed their families are also the most likely to go to bed hungry tonight. As part of its global response to the pandemic, Canada should continue to ensure strong support for small-scale farmers-especially women.
Canadian aid as a percentage of gross national income
Over the last 50 years Canada’s aid spending has been on the decline. Today Canada gives much less as a percentage of our national wealth on average than other wealthy countries. And only 5 percent of the 6 billion dollars being provided to developing countries goes to agriculture.
What does Canada spend aid on?
Canadian Aid by Sector
“Other” spending includes administration costs, business services and aid to multiple sectors.
Why more aid for agriculture?
Support for small-scale farmers can enable them to break out of cycles of poverty and hunger, build stronger local and global economies, and contribute to peace and stability everywhere. Malnutrition alone costs the global economy up to US$ 3.5 trillion dollars per year.
Levelling the playing field through agriculture development could mean as many as 100-150 million people getting the food they need to thrive. More children, families and entire communities would flourish, and become food secure; simply by removing the barriers facing women farmers.
GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture.
There are several key ways that Canadian aid can reach women and support their empowerment through agriculture & livelihoods programming.
- Ensure women have better access to the resources and services they need as farmers.
- Improve women’s agency so they have more control over their income, and are respected as equal to men.
- Foster collective action. Groups of women working together can overcome gender discrimination more effectively, learn from each other and gain important leadership skills, and advocate to improve the laws and institutions that hold them back.
The Foodgrains Bank urges the Canadian government to increase support for small-scale farmers in least developed countries, especially for women. Such investments are an effective way to cut poverty, boost economies, increase women’s autonomy and decision-making power, improve nutrition, and support farmers in adapting to climate change.
Did You Know?
The aid Canada provides is helping end global hunger and poverty. It can create opportunities for women and men to grow enough food for themselves and their families in a sustainable way and contribute to prosperous local economies, increasing self-reliance now and into the future.
Canadian aid includes emergency assistance after natural disasters, educational programs, health support, clean water and sanitation, climate change adaptation, food assistance and agricultural support to developing countries. Canadian aid can be funnelled through multiple channels, including organizations such as the Foodgrains Bank, who work with local partners in developing countries to support those in need.
Canadian aid makes a difference!
- Why is aid important?
Aid, or ODA (Official Development Assistance), plays a central role in addressing global hunger and poverty. The aid from donor countries provides immediate assistance in times of crises, and includes investments in health, education, and economic opportunities for people who are poor or marginalized, especially women. Aid helps strengthen local governments to better serve the needs of their citizens. And aid empowers people in developing countries to speak up, tell their governments what they need and hold them accountable.
While aid is not the only tool that helps achieve these goals, it is the only tool with the primary objective of reducing global poverty.
Aid can help developing countries become more prosperous, reducing the risk of conflicts. It also helps communities become better prepared for natural disasters and a changing climate, reducing the need for humanitarian assistance and costly disaster responses.
- Don’t we already give a lot?
Canada commits roughly $5 billion every year towards addressing poverty and inequality around the world. This is a large sum of money, but is only 1.7% of Canada’s budget and a small portion of Canada’s Gross National Income (GNI) at just 0.26%. Put another way, for every $100 that Canada earns as income, roughly 26 cents are given back to address global poverty. This is compared to an average 0.52% given by peer countries (France, Italy, USA, Germany, UK, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden) and a globally agreed target of 0.7%.
- Shouldn't we fix things here in Canada first?
We need to do both. The challenges of poverty, inequality, and hunger also exist here in our own back yard. The federal government has a responsibility to address the wellbeing of its citizens. Canada is also part of a global community, where we impact the wellbeing of those on the other side of the world now more than ever.
Canada can address global challenges while also addressing challenges here at home. We don’t need to wait until all of Canada’s problems are solved before we help those facing hunger, poverty and inequality in other parts of our world. Nor would cutting international aid suddenly solve our domestic problems.
Issues such as climate change, peace security don’t have borders. Ignoring them may have a negative impact on us here at home. We cannot benefit by solving these issues in Canada alone. Global issues require global solutions.
- With federal budget deficits, can Canada afford to give more?
Government departments must make tough decisions when balancing a range of priorities and funding requests for multiple federal programs, including aid. This is also true in other countries, including countries that provide international aid. Even with this wide range of priorities, countries with similar economies manage to give, on average, twice as much aid as Canada. As Canadians, we have the right and opportunity to inform government as to how we believe Canada should spend its limited resources.
We believe Canada can keep up with its peers, do its fair share, and dare to be leaders when it comes to providing aid that addresses global poverty.
- Can’t we just give aid more effectively instead of adding more?
Canada continues to improve the effectiveness of its aid program. Organizations, such as Canadian Foodgrains Bank, help Canada make its aid more effective at ending global hunger and poverty by sharing evidence and best practices, such as ensuring local communities are involved in decision-making.
The amount we give is also important. Global needs are great, and we can only be so effective with limited resources. Increasing aid will enable us to reach more people.
- Shouldn’t we focus on domestic problems instead?
The challenges of poverty, inequality, and hunger also exist here in Canada, and the federal government has a responsibility to address the wellbeing of its citizens.
At the same time, Canada is part of a global community and the issues we grapple with at a global level touch lives in Canada too. We can address global challenges while also addressing problems here at home. We don’t need to wait until all of Canada’s problems are solved before we help those facing hunger, poverty, and inequality in other parts of our world.
- Doesn’t aid just get wasted? How does Canada ensure money doesn’t end up in the hands of corrupt governments?
Aid dollars are needed in some of the most conflicted and instable places in the world. Despite best efforts, it’s not always possible to ensure that all aid dollars get used efficiently and effectively.
That said, the Canadian government has committed to global accountability and transparency standards in its aid. It has taken steps to ensure aid dollars are used effectively, and that Canadians can track how aid dollars are being spent.
Furthermore, there’s lots of evidence showing the positive impacts of aid on development and raising standards of living.
- Doesn’t aid create dependence? Why can’t people help themselves?
It’s true that aid given poorly can increase the dependence on aid by countries or communities. But it’s also true that some of the world’s poorest countries are now far less reliant on aid than 10-15 years ago. Aid that creates opportunities for women and men to grow enough food to feed themselves and their families in a sustainable way and contribute to prosperous local economies can increase self-reliance now and into the future.
By working closely with Canadian development organizations and local partner organizations, who strive for sustainability and community involvement in decision-making, Canadian aid can build capacity and foster independence.
- What could be supported with a larger aid budget?
The Foodgrains Bank, along with many other organizations and researchers, have advocated for increased investments in agriculture, especially for small-scale farmers.
Canada has an ambitious new international assistance policy, with important goals around empowering women and improving women’s equality as an important pathway to reducing poverty and hunger around the world. It has also made global commitments toward reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. To meet these goals and commitments, more resources will be needed.
Investments in agricultural development are an important way Canada can improve the lives of those living in poverty, especially women. Canada’s investments can empower women to better access farming resources, strengthen farmers’ voices (including through farmer cooperatives and women’s organizations), and enable agricultural innovation. There is lots of evidence showing how investments in agriculture increases economic growth, improves nutrition, and helps communities adapt to a changing climate.
- Are you asking for more money for Foodgrains Bank?
No, we’re not specifically asking for more money for Canadian Foodgrains Bank. We are thankful for ongoing support from the Canadian government to the Foodgrains Bank for its work in ending global hunger. But this is a big goal. We need the Canadian government to increase the aid budget to help make this goal a reality.
- How will this benefit Canadians?
As Canadians, we care about helping others even when it may not directly benefit us. Canadian Foodgrains Bank strives to see an end to global hunger. We believe many Canadians feel the same way. We value compassion and want our government to be generous too.
We also believe that in helping to end global poverty we can create a more prosperous, fairer and hopeful world. This is good for all of us. It means more global security, a stronger global economy and more trade and investment opportunities for Canadians. It also reduces costs for responding to disasters and famines in the future.
- Why is it my role to advocate?
We are fortunate to live in a country where we can use our voices to work towards justice around the world. As such, we have an opportunity to speak for those who are not so fortunate; whose identity, status, or political structures do not allow their voices to be heard.
There is also a clear Biblical basis for advocacy. Advocacy is using your voice to speak in support of another. When it comes to hunger, poverty, and inequality, these are often matters of justice, compassion, and healing relationships with other people. The Bible is filled with examples of advocates, such as Esther, Moses, and Jesus.
In Canada’s democratic system, it is important that the government’s choices represent constituents’ views (including yours!). Canada’s support for aid is decided by the federal government, including your Member of Parliament. To ensure your MP knows this issue is important to you, you can:
- Sign a postcard
- Use social media to demonstrate your support, #MoreCanada, #MoreAid4Ag
- Write a letter to your MP, or the Minister for International Development
- Phone your MP
- Meet with your MP directly
- Does signing a postcard make a difference?
Yes! Government officials have noted public support is a critical component if we want to increase the aid budget. The government has affirmed efforts by the Foodgrains Bank to raise public awareness and provide opportunities for Canadians to show their support for these issues. Postcards and other public demonstrations of support are noticed by policymakers, and have encouraged Canada to remain focused on addressing global hunger over the years. Your postcard amplifies the message of thousands like you who are showing they care.