emerging blog

An Englishman in New York for the International Year of Pulses 2016

Milan Shah, Huseyin Arslan, Cindy Brown, Gordon Bacon, Andrew Jacobs, Tim McGreevy, Katia Sambin and I had the opportunity to represent the Global Pulse Confederation, along with a great contingent of pulse farmers during a week of exciting events to launch the International Year of Pulses in North America.

Please read Milan’s excellent post on the experiences of an Englishman in New York.

Fresh start with Emerging Ag

My first month with Emerging has gone by in the blink of an eye. Freshly out of grad school, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of such a global, high impact, and efficient company. I began my journey with Emerging in Rome for CFS 2015. There I got to meet face to face with the Emerging team. This experience has helped improve my communications with everyone since returning home. The team has been more than helpful with my onboarding process. While not my first time in a virtual office, it is a new experience in the sense this is a small global office. I like the fact that with a smaller team comes a more personal element to my work and because we have co-workers all over the globe it removes the typical 9-5 work day. This supports productivity, because generally, we have someone online around the clock. The amount of flexibility I have in where I live, and (within reason) when I start my day is a freeing experience.

Not having grown up in an agricultural family, it is fascinating to learn what goes into our food, both locally and globally. Attending CFS, I learned how dedicated both the private and public sector are to finding solutions to issues like climate change, food security, poverty, sustainability and more. It was great to see the private and public sector collaborating to develop innovative solutions to many of the problems we face today. I feel like I am just beginning to grasp how large the projects we work on are. These projects and the clients we work with have the potential to truly help people and positively impact the world. It is inspiring to work with a group full of passionate, hardworking, individuals. I look forward to meeting all of our clients and learning more about my co-workers.

Scaling Up Sustainability Collaboration

This September, world leaders committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in an effort to make the necessary changes to achieve a more sustainable future. More than ever, collaboration between the public and private sectors is needed to meet these important goals. As such, organizations must increase their efforts for sustainability and find innovative ways to collaborate both with other private organizations and with the public sector.

The report Scaling Up Sustainability Collaboration: Contributions of Business Associations and Sector Initiatives to Sustainable Development, was published both by the UN Global Compact and the International Chamber of Commerce, and it outlines various industry associations and how they are aiding member organizations to integrate sustainability into their business practices. Through collaboration, new and remarkable networks have been created that provide industry specific expertise for those involved in the network. This method of information sharing has led to the development of industry standards and fostered new relationships. Below are examples of important contributions made through the IAFN/PSM.

Global Salmon Initiative (PSM Member) Page 73.

With the global demand for protein is expected to increase 70% by 2050, salmon is going to play an important role in meeting this drastic increase in demand. In 2013, the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) was launched in an effort to put aside competition and reach the common goal for a more sustainable industry. The mission of the GSI members is to make significant progress towards providing a highly sustainable source of healthy protein to feed a growing population, while minimizing the environmental footprint, and increasing positive social contribution. The GSI has three key principles: (1) sustainability, (2) transparency and (3) cooperation. The GSI is comprised of 17 salmon farming companies that account for about 70% of the global industry and member companies operate globally.

The GSI focuses on improving the industry’s reputation by ensuring greater industry transparency across all members and all regions. GSI is currently establishing a series of sustainability indicators that will support global industry reporting. Next, the group plans to launch an online reporting platform in 2015 which openly shows the environmental and social performance of all the GSI members

International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) Page 75

In 1996, the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) was created as an informal coalition of international trade associations involved in the agri-food sector at the global level. Thousands of IAFN members are international companies and hundreds of national associations. Those national associations in turn represent tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises, thousands of cooperatives and millions of farmers. The associations encompassing the network have members in 135 of the 193 countries in the United Nations. The main goal of the IAFN is to define and deliver the private sector’s commitment to addressing global poverty and food security. The network facilitates connections and coordination among member organizations and engages international organizations in the agri-food chain at a global level.

The IAFN focuses on playing the role of a negotiator between companies and associations and UN bodies to find ways to operationalize resolution documents. The IAFN does a number of activities that IAFN members are involved in to promote sustainable development.

International Fertilizer Industry Association (IAFN Member) Page 77.

The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) has 560 members. These members are involved throughout the fertilizer value chain. Over half of IFA’s members are based in emerging and developing economies. It is IFA’s vision that fertilizers will play a critical role in achieving global food security and sustainable development. They plan on achieving this through the efficient production, distribution and use of these plant nutrients.

These three organizations above illustrate the extensive efforts that are being made towards the SDGs. There needs to be an amalgamation of our traditional thought patterns with new and innovative philosophies if we want to achieve the 2030 SDGs. For more information on any of the projects or organizations listed above click here.

Aztec Oats Recipes

avena barrasDespite the enormous progress that Mexico has generally experienced in recent years, malnutrition and childhood obesity are still a worrying problem. In the age group of 5 to 14 years, chronic malnutrition is 7.25% in urban populations, while the number double in rural areas. On the other hand, childhood obesity has increased dramatically in recent years. Currently, Mexico ranks first  in childhood obesity worldwide, and second in obesity in adults, preceded only by the United States.

The Mexican Government and food companies have been working on social campaigns to fight obesity. As a result, the market for oats has been growing as consumers recognize the dietary benefits of whole grains. Emerging Ag is helping POGA, since 2012, to promote the nutritional benefits of oats in the Aztec country.

Last year, POGA launched an online advertising campaign that has obtained success among Mexican consumers. While the website AvenaCanada.com receives a daily average of 700 unique visitors, the Facebook Fan Page has over 31,200 followers.

Although oats are not a traditional staple food in Mexico, there are many ways in which they can be incorporated into their diets. Being a Mexican, I have been commissioned with the fun task of creating these recipes. Enchiladas with tortillas made with oats, Atole and horchata with oats, and many more. Have a look at the Mexican recipes featuring oats here. More creative recipes will come soon. Oats porridge with cotija cheese and jalapeño toppings? Everything is possible, so stay tuned.

Feeding Africa Conference Adopts Plan for Agricultural Transformation

The adoption of an action plan and wide-ranging partnerships to transform African agriculture into viable agri-business were the main outcomes of the three-day high-level conference on Africa's agricultural transformation, which ended in Dakar, Senegal, on Friday. The Finance and Agriculture and Central Bank Governors who attended the conference has decided to scale up nutrition programs across Africa to end malnutrition and hunger.

The program will involve establishing a strategic partnership with President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative, Grow Africa of the World Economic Forum, the Big Win Philanthropy, the FAO, Scaling Up Nutrition, the World Food Program, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, as well as the private sector at large, to deploy innovative approaches to addressing malnutrition. Other action plans aim to significantly increase commercial financing to the agriculture sector by establishing an African Agricultural Risk Sharing Facility.

To learn more about the action plan, follow this link.

Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition

The USAID-supported East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Syngenta and the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), launched the second edition of the agribusiness competition dubbed “Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition.”

This launch follows last year’s successful Agribusiness competition, which attracted over 800 participants from sub-Saharan Africa. Ten of the 35 youth finalists have gone on to win other prizes in the energy and agribusiness sectors, while ten other have expanded and retained their agro-related enterprises and 15 are employed or pursuing higher education.

This year’s competition is open to East African youth aged 18-35 years, who reside in the East African Community, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Mauritius or Madagascar, and have a start-up or small and medium sized enterprise (SME) involved in the agricultural value chain. The deadline for SMEs has been extended to October 30, 2015

For more information, visit the Young Innovators in Agribusiness website.

FAO Dialogue with the Private Sector Mechanism on Inclusive Finance and Investment Models in Agriculture

Jaine Chisholm Caunt, Chair of the Private Sector Mechanism and Director General of the Grain and Feed Trade Association, and I were featured in an FAO dialogue on inclusive finance and investment models in agriculture at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome. Watch the video below.



For information regarding the FAO Director-General’s meeting with Private Sector at CFS focusing on Inclusive Finance, visit the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) news page.

The Magical Portuguese Soup of Stones

sopa-da-pedraAlmeirim is a small town in Portugal famous for its good melon, wine, tomatoes, and the famous soup…of stones. Although there are many variations of the recipe, this soup is still prepared in this town in Portugal not only by the local people, but also by restaurants, who consume a total of 12,000 kilograms of beans per month.


But don’t be fooled by the name, this soup does not consist of stones nor will it leave stones in your kidneys. The name of the soup actually comes from the legend behind it.

Once upon a time in Portugal, there was a very poor friar who was embarrassed of asking for food or money. Clever he was, and with a stone in his pocket he knocked in some villager’s door saying “Hello good fellow, I have a magical stone that can make the most delicious soup ever tasted, would you like to try it?”. The skeptical villager was about to close the door in his face, but was also curious about the stone. The friar offered to cook the soup and to give him a taste of it if he had access to the kitchen. Despite thinking that the friar was a bit nuts, the villager lent him a pot, water and a ladle.

The villager stood close to the friar waiting to see some magic, while the friar began to ask for some ingredients: “My dear fellow, this soup could use some vegetables, do you happen to have a carrot, some potatoes, onion and celery?” to which the villager replied, “well of course, we grow our own vegetables here, let me get you some”. The friar added the vegetables and asked again, “well this is almost ready, we just need some meat and beans, if you have that, then the soup will be perfect”. The proud villager replied, “No worries father, of course we have that in the house!” The friar continued stirring the soup and the villager stood next to him more curious than ever. Finally the friar said “Is almost done, but we need some salt, pepper and perhaps some fresh herbs, you don’t happen to have some, do you”. The villager who was getting very impatient went to get the requested ingredients.

After the friar added the meat and beans and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, the friar tasted the soup and finally declared “The stone has done its magic! This soup is the most delicious ever tasted! Please try it!” The villager took a big spoon and was very pleased with it, so much so that he asked the friar to sell him the stone. The friar declined and continued his pilgrimage with the stone in his pocket, knocking on others people’s door, ready to prepare them the “Magic Stone” soup.

Get ready for the Portuguese International Year of Pulses 2016 signature dish! Run to the nearest garden, park, or beach and get a stone…the recipe will be coming soon on November 10, with the launch of Pulses.org.

Stats Show Women Still have a Way to Go

For years, the Emerging team has been working to highlight the particularly gaps that face women farmers and the high degree of poverty experienced by rural women. Women and children make up the majority of the population living in poverty and are most affected by transecting, systemic barriers and societal attitudes which preclude them from working their way out of poverty.

The UN’s goals to end poverty, end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture are intrinsically tied with their ability to meet the goal of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. Their infographic on poverty highlights the issue of gender inequality and its relation to poverty. Often, the gender disparities seen today are a result of women’s lack of access to these economic resources. One in three women have no influence over any major purchases for their household. In many developing countries laws and policies restrict women’s access to land, capital and other assets. These restrictions are regularly due to laws that inhibit their economic independence. In the developing nations where data was collected for this study, 28% had laws that did not guarantee the same inheritance rights as men, 52% had laws that give women the same rights but have customs that discriminate against women and only 20% had laws that guarantees the same rights for men and women.

Furthermore, there are less women who have their own income because there is a disparity in access to paid work versus unpaid work. This is not to say that women aren’t working. Women’s contribution to the rural economy is generally undervalued. Women perform a disproportionate amount of care work, work that often goes unrecognized because it is not seen as economically productive. Through efforts to ensure women have access to resources and economic opportunities the UN can eradicate hunger and poverty.

To read more click here: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/chapter8/chapter8.html

What's a More Important Sector: Oil or Agriculture?

There is an age old debate on whether the agricultural or oil sector is most important. Being based in Calgary, I am surrounded by the importance of both sectors. My friend, Kim McCornell, wrote me the other day with some interesting facts from a column by Brenda Schoepp in the latest issue of Alberta Farmer Express. I encourage you all to read below:

BOTH are very important --- especially in this part of the world.  But here are some neat facts that you might find of interest about Canada’s agriculture and oil sectors:

  • Agriculture in Canada directly employs more than 305,000 people and the entire agri-food industry employs 2.2 million persons … supplying one in eight Canadians with work.  Oil & gas directly employs 190,000 people and just over 400,000 persons as an industry. While the oil & gas industry is presently laying off workers, the agricultural industry is estimated to be short 74,000 workers by the year 2022.

  • Oil & gas produce 2.9 per cent of GDP while all energy, including electricity, is 7.5 percent of GDP.  Agri-food accounts for 6.7 per cent of GDP – bigger than auto manufacturing

  • The Canadian grocery cart contains 70 per cent of Canadian products grown in Canada.

  • 98 per cent of farms in Canada are family farms supporting the continuation of the rural infrastructure and the protection of rural cultures.  More than 25,000 of these farms are owned and operated by men and women under age 35

  • 40 per cent of agricultural commodities are value-added in Canada in more than 6,000 facilities, and the industry has room for growth (meat processing alone employs 79,000 persons).  A small percentage of oil has further value add within our borders in 15 refineries

  • Agriculture is estimated to contribute 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas with 26 percent coming directly from the oil & gas sector.  Changes in farming practices continue to contribute to the reduction of environmental degradation.


Kim noted that both the oil & gas industry and the agri-food industries are important to Alberta and Canada.  The benefits rewarded to Albertans and Canadians from these industries is incomparable.

What’s surprising is that we just completed a provincial election in Alberta, and a federal election, yet the growth of these industries and the many opportunities it offers or the importance our vibrant agri-food industry provides, are rarely mentioned.

As Kim stated, “The journey continues …”