2020 Year in Review

10 years ago I had a dream to start a new business focused on issues I am passionate about. That dream has been shared by the incredible coterie of colleagues we have built at Emerging ag – truly my dream team! Over the past decade, we have had the opportunity to work on exciting projects with interesting clients from around the world. Although this year we didn’t get to visit those clients and projects in-person, we were so lucky to have had a busy, constructive, exciting year – our biggest yet despite all the challenges. Here are a few highlights:

January 

Emerging ag has always been passionate about the participation of Women in Agriculture. We ensure all our events represent a gender-balanced panel of speakers. In January, we facilitated the participation of Dr. Shirley Tarawali of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya and Patience Koku, CEO of Replenish Farms in Nigeria to participate in the 5th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT). The theme of the 2020 International Day of Women and Girls in Science was Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth. Dr. Tarawali and Ms. Koku spoke on a panel on Equality in Agricultural Science, Technology and Innovation for Inclusive Green Growth.

Emerging conducted many pieces of training for the Target Malaria teams in various countries (Uganda, Cape Verde, Ghana, UK) and languages (French, English, and Portuguese) focusing on communications, stakeholder engagement, and media relations. A mix of theory and practice, these trainings were an opportunity to learn and refresh the teams’ knowledge about the project and get them ready to speak about Target Malaria in a consistent and assertive manner. Although we did not have the opportunity to meet participants in-person, which is always a lovely experience, online platforms kept us close and engaged. In addition, the team innovated this year with the development of a Communication E-learning training for newcomers to the project and team members wishing to improve their communications skills. We have tried to use all the tools that have been developed over the years for the project, from videos to animations and photos. It was a rewarding experience for us to see how our partnership with Target Malaria has developed over the years. For 2021, we are preparing the Stakeholder Engagement E-learning Training, and we cannot wait to see how it is going to look!

February

Between February 3rd & 5th, the Prairie Oat Growers Association delegation had meetings in Ottawa with a number of key actors in both the agriculture and transportation spheres. These meetings were productive, and many who met with the delegation were informed about Canada’s role as the largest exporter of oats and the issues oat farmers face. In total, 34 officials (plus several staffers) were met in 21 meetings. In addition, we held a special event at Oat Couture, an oat based restaurant in Ottawa, which hosted over 20 attendees.

2020 started as a milestone year for gene drive research. In February, Emerging, as the Secretariat for the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research, supported member's participation in the second round of negotiations of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The Post-2020 GBF will set the international level of ambition and commitment to environmental conservation for the next decades. Network members had the opportunity to deliver statements on the importance of science and research for the success of the new Framework, as well as the positive contribution of genetic technologies to biodiversity and public health. Other key events shaping the environment research for gene drive were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Network was able to continue its engagement and participate in briefings and webinars to inform stakeholders about the gene drive research. Amongst other opportunities, members were invited to participate in the briefing organized by the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development to inform EU discussions on its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and position to COP-15. Network members were also panelists of the webinar hosted by IUCN Species Survival Commission on synthetic biology. 

March

In March, COVID-19 truly took the world by storm, and we, along with everyone else, felt the impacts of the global shut down. While we at Emerging were lucky to already be in a virtual office environment, we recognized and saw some of the direct impacts of the pandemic, particularly on the farmers. I was honored to be part of Agritecture’s digital conference series, through which I was able to discuss “The Future of Food Systems.” It was a wonderful moment to reflect and set a path to the sustainable food system we all want for the future.

March also became a moment for Emerging to realign and replan for what could take place through the rest of the year. While there were a lot of unknowns we are thankful to everyone who allowed us to continue working with them and trusted us in assisting with the new reality of virtual events.

April

A social media strategy was developed in April to promote videos created by the Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) that focused on methods to protect yourself against COVID-19. SAWBO is a wonderful program based out of Michigan State University which works to create accessible videos into a diversity of languages from around the world. Our work to help guide them in best practices and strategies to promote these videos to the necessary audiences. With the COVID-19 video being the first of our promotions, we were blown away by the results. Focusing our promotions on Facebook, we were able to reach over 10.4 million viewers and acquired over 15.8 million impressions in just one month. This resulted in a huge increase in video views, helping to get their important messaging to those who need it most.

May

In May, the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) has held its 6th Annual Oat Recipe Contest. The contest celebrates the health benefits and versatility of oats. This year, for the first time, the contest featured four distinct categories, including traditional Mexican cuisine, vegetarian, gluten-free, and creative recipes. Despite the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexican cooks enthusiastically responded to the contest challenge submitting 93 recipes (the highest number of submissions to date), creatively incorporating oats into a variety of dishes. The Award Ceremony which was held on June 30th around the festivities of Canada Day welcomed the 12 winners along with the President of POGA Jenneth Johanson and the Ambassador of Canada in Mexico H.E. Graeme C. Clark. It was broadcasted live on the Facebook channel due to the restrictions of the pandemic and has garnered around 5k views.

2021 will prove to be a very busy and exciting year for the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) as we prepare for active involvement in the 2021 Food Systems Summit. During the month of May, we were able to begin that engagement during a discussion with the Food Systems Summit Special Envoy Ms. Agnes Kalibata. The meeting was attended by approximately 90 PSM members and acted as an opportunity for attendees to discuss how they hoped to help in the development of the Summit. Five speakers put forward five proposals for action pathways that would touch all parts of the value system. Additional engagement occurred in June when the Deputy to the Special Envoy, Dr. Martin Frick, attended the PSM’s annual general meeting. This meeting acted as a moment for members to receive an update on the Summit and for Dr. Frick to hear of the plans members had begun forming. Since then the PSM has been given an institutional seat on each of the action tracks and looks forward to engagement throughout 2021.

Also, in May and June Emerging organized and moderated a series of workshops on approaches to community agreement for gene drive research, as part of its ongoing support to Target Malaria. The workshop, co-sponsored by Target Malaria, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and the Pan Africa Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA), consisted of several live discussion sessions, Q&As, and live working sessions using virtual “whiteboards”. The purpose of this workshop was to bring together experts in community engagement to help co-develop and establish best practices in seeking community agreement in gene drive research. The findings of this workshop will be published shortly and will inform Target Malaria’s future work as it moves into the next stages of its research.

June

June 1st marked the 20th anniversary celebration of World Milk Day. For the 3rd year, Emerging ag was excited to work with the Global Dairy Platform in the planning and execution of the global campaign. In addition to the days' activities, for the 2nd year, the Enjoy Dairy rally took place from May 29th – 31st to jump start the conversation and get people excited for World Milk Day. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the global lockdowns, 104 countries engaged in 420 virtual events and on social media. Highlights from the campaign include:

  • 842 million impressions for the global campaign (including #EnjoyDairy plus 40 translations and local hashtags) an increase from 664 million in 2019.
  • 308 million impressions for the global campaign prior to June 1, a nearly 20% increase from 2019.
  • 62,000 posts featured #WorldMilkDay, up from 50,000 posts last year.
  • 61.5% positive, 36% neutral, 2.5% negative sentiment for the top 3 hashtags, all improvements from 2019.

The first of a new series, Emerging worked with OCP to design an interactive and informative speaker series to share best practices and spark action on issues relating to sustainable agriculture and development. The series was originally planned as in-person sessions, however, with the restrictions from COVID-19, a new plan to turn the event digital took place. In June, the first event “Cultivating Conversations: Building Food Systems Hand-in-Hand” took place over Zoom with four expert panelists and a special chef appearance from Chef Pierre Thiam, celebrated chef, restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and entrepreneur. The panelists included:

  • Dr. Máximo Torero Cullen, Assistant Deputy Director General, FAO
  • Nega Wubeneg, Country Manager for Ethiopia and Advisor to the VP of Program Innovation and Delivery, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Jennifer Sirangelo, President & CEO, National 4-H Council
  • Ruramiso Mashumba, Director Mnandi Africa

The event discussed how to accelerate food security in the 44 countries of the FAO Hand-in-Hand initiative. Attendees enjoyed presentations, interactive quizzes, and a cooking demonstration from Chef Pierre Thiam. In addition, 5 participants were awarded Chef Thiam’s cookbook and fonio for their use! The next session will take place in early 2021, and we are greatly looking forward to it.

July

The 2020 Session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is certainly one that will be remembered for a long time to come - it was the first time a meeting of this magnitude was held in an entirely virtual manner at the United Nations. Held over the period of July 7th – July 16th, the forum was held under the theme "Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. The key message which emanated from the discussions emphasized that COVID-19 had laid bare the world’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Building back will involve transforming food systems and strengthening health and social systems. Climate change, biodiversity, food systems, health, and social issues can no longer be considered in isolation. The World needs a holistic approach and resilience will now be a key factor in discussions on sustainability and achieving the SDGs. As part of the session, Emerging Ag, in collaboration with the National University of Science and Technology of Pakistan, held a webinar that discussed the interlinkages between agriculture and biodiversity and how to increase food production for a growing global population while preserving biodiversity, protecting the environment, mitigating the impact of disasters, and adapting to climate change.

In conjunction with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and in the lead up to the 2021 Food Systems Summit; Emerging ag held 2 online training seminars on trends in Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition. In May 2020, Emerging ag organized a course dubbed “Defining Transformation: A Global Food System.” This course discussed the key elements of a sustainable global food system and the pathways we can pursue to transform the current system to become more sustainable. The course was attended by over 100 people. In July 2020, Emerging ag organized a course on Biodiversity, Resilience, and Food Security. The course, attended by over 300 people, was part of the 2020 Edition of the SDGs Learning, Training and Practice at the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

August 

In continuation with our work with SAWBO to promote their educational videos, we developed a broader communications plan to increase their project’s reach online, as well as an acceleration plan to promote a video animation on Jerrycan bean storage. This animation explains how to avoid insect damage when storing beans after harvest using the jerrycan method and is a great resource for farmers in rural communities. The acceleration plan aimed to promote the video in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Focusing on Facebook promotion for this video as well, the total reach of the project exceeded 10 million. Further acceleration plans are being developed to promote new video animations on YouTube and Facebook that will be launched in January. This project continues to grow and exceed expectations!

September 

Emerging Ag provided program development and event management services for this year’s AGRF Virtual Summit. AGRF is the largest Agriculture and Food Systems event in Africa. This year’s AGRF was held virtually from September 8-11 and was hosted by the government of Rwanda. In partnership with Lind Agricultural Services, run by Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Techchange, The Contented Agency, Cube, and Brand Leadership, Emerging developed an innovative program tailored for a virtual audience, selected distinguished speakers, and managed the delivery of this year’s Virtual Summit’s program. Over 10,000 delegates attended this year’s AGRF. The programme featured an exciting lineup of 320 speakers in 78 sessions, featuring 9 hours of programming per day. Events were also live streamed on YouTube, Rwanda TV, Social Media via Facebook Live as well as featured on the cable satellite channel, CNBC Africa.

October

October would typically find a large number of Emerging team members at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome attending and managing a large delegation at the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This year FAO made the decision to postpone CFS and instead hold a Special High Level Event from October 13th – 15th. 73 registrants attended three days of plenary sessions and 12 side events. PSM was able to put forward three panel speakers to make a statement and answer questions during the plenary sessions. PSM was represented by Diane Holdorf, Robert Siak, and Yunike Phiri. In addition to the plenary showings, one of these side events was hosted by PSM member, the Grain and Feed Trade Association on the topic of “The important Role of Trade in Promoting Resilience in our Global Food Systems.” An official CFS47 will take place in February 2021.

The Private Sector Mechanism continued a busy week by hosting a High Level Food Systems Dialogue that was held on October 13th, 2020 around the High Level Virtual Special Event. The dialogue proved to be an extremely productive and enriching event. Hosted by Dr. David Nabarro the event gathered around 220 guests who had the opportunity to carry deep and textured discussions during break out sessions. Each of the break out rooms focused on one of the five action tracks of the 2021 Food Systems Summit. Following the success of the event, it has been agreed that a series of High Level Dialogues will be held in 2021 to complement the discussions and support the activities of CFS ahead of the Food Systems Summit.

At its 46th Session in October 2019, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) took the decision to develop Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the context of Food Security and Nutrition as part of its Multi-Year Programme of Work (MYPoW) for 2020-2023. In late 2020, an Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) met twice to review Terms of Reference prepared by the Technical Task Team working with the two Co-Chairs, Ambassador Ouédraogo from Burkina Faso and Permanent Representative Satu Lassila from Finland. The ToR is expected to be approved at the CFS Plenary in February 2021 after which the policy convergence process will begin in earnest, and we expect to see several meetings of the OEWG convened. The focus on the twin issues of gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment is going to give the stream a challenging and vital role in CFS’s work and sits well alongside the ongoing work by CFS on the development of the Nutrition Guidelines. As well, support for gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 — to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, as well as the mainstreaming of gender related targets and indicators across the other SDGs.

November

In November, after great delay the newly formed Digital Agriculture Association had its first meeting. This Association was originally meant to begin work in early 2020 but the pandemic caused delays. The Association hopes to work closely with the newly formed FAO Digital Council. Discussions have already begun as Mr. Maximo Torero, Assistant Director General of the Economic and Social Development Department of FAO was able to join one of the first meetings of the Association to discuss collaboration opportunities. With a Board of 8 individuals and a growing membership, the Association will strive to:

  • Monitor fast changing policy and legislative environments
  • Identify emerging issues impacting business
  • Network with companies in the digital agriculture space

In 2019, Fertilizer Canada launched a five-year project in Ethiopia and Ghana, to be followed by Senegal, that brings together Canadian and international experts to work directly with 80,000 smallholder farmers, to share customized tools and best management practices under the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program. In July 2020, the 4R Project held a 90-minute digital seminar to brief the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) on their ongoing activities in Africa and discuss possible areas of collaboration. In November 2020, in conjunction with the Government of Ethiopia (represented by Hon. Dr. Mandefro Nigussie, State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture) the 4R project held a 60-minute digital event to discuss nutrient stewardship in Africa. This event convened researchers, policymakers, and private sector actors to discuss ways to expand and replicate the 4R program. The event featured special remarks from H.E. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner, Rural Economy and Agriculture, AU Commission, and H.E. Gérardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda.

Each year, the Prairie Oat Growers Association celebrates World Diabetes Day through its consumer-facing recipe Facebook page Avena Canadiense. What is normally an in-person event for approximately 50 people, this year was celebrated through an online cooking demonstration and presentations discussing the role oats could play in reducing their risk for Diabetes and how those with Diabetes should incorporate oats into their cooking. This demonstration was done in collaboration with the Federación Mexicana de Diabetes, A.C., and was filmed live in their facilities with nutritionists and chefs. The event was a huge success, reaching over 51,000 Mexican consumers and garnering close to 10,000 engagements online. The event showcased the power of social media to educate those who need it most.

December

On December 15th FAO officially launched 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. Through a two hour virtual event speakers discussed the importance of fruits and vegetables in food systems and as part of a healthy diet. The event included remarks by FAO Director General Mr. Qu Dongyu. The international year will seek to raise awareness of the importance of consumption, promoting a diversified diet, and including the integration of smallholders in the policy decisions. A full recording of the launch can be found here.

The Fifth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA5) will be held in two sessions, a virtual one in 2021 and an in-person meeting in February 2022 on the theme Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2020, Emerging ag supported members of the Global Business Alliance for the Environment (GBA4E) to conduct outreach and engagement in preparation for UNEA5. This included attending meetings of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives, preparing joint and individual papers on the UNEA5 theme, and holding bilateral meetings with UNEP Member States. Read GBA4E’s statement on the proposed thematic areas for UNEA 5 here. 

Emerging has been working with the Sight and Life Foundation to help launch an exciting new initiative, Food Systems Innovation Hubs. These hubs will be built and operated by Sight and Life in rapidly developing economies like Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Rwanda, where they will stimulate investment through corporate partnerships, impact investors, and government collaboration. The goal is to accelerate innovation and transfer knowledge from High Income Countries to Low-and-Middle Income Countries in order to contribute to society-wide dietary shifts towards more efficient, healthier, and more environmentally friendly food systems. Emerging ag has been assisting in planning the launch event, and has connected Sight and Life to the kinds of partners who would be best placed to support their Innovation Hubs project. In addition, we have developed a thought leadership series that includes blogs and other engaging content, to create buzz in agricultural and nutrition communities in the lead up to the Food Systems Summit.

Next year, we're looking forward to the World Food Systems Summit; to putting agriculture front and centre; empowering farmers, women, and youth to propel themselves into the future; to creating an opportunity for healthier diets; to improving global health.  We're looking forward to the future. Even after all the challenges the world has shared, we hope for ten more years of progress, effort, and empowerment.  Have a safe and Happy New Year. 

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