Ag Facts in Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has released some great facts and videos about the importance of agriculture to Canada....

Why is the agriculture and agri-food sector so important? It's a colossal contributor to the lives of all Canadians. It feeds us, as well as our economy. It employs us, and depends upon the environmental stewardship of our farmers. It is fueled by innovation and ingenuity. In short, it grows a lot more than you may think!

The agriculture and agri-food industry contributes $100 billion annually to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP). (That's more than the national GDP of 2/3 of the world's countries).

No Wonder the Tomato Wears a Crown

Why agriculture is a big deal. What makes agriculture king? Canada is the 5th largest agricultural exporter in the world, and the agriculture and agri-food industry employs 2.1 million Canadians (that's 1 in 8 jobs). We produce about 85% of the world's maple syrup, and we're the world's largest producer and exporter of flax seed, canola, pulses and durum wheat.

This Kidney Bean is Counting the Ways Agriculture is Amazing

Agriculture's hidden marvels. Think agriculture only produces things that you eat? Think again! Did you know the airbag in your car contains cornstarch? That diabetic test strips contain an enzyme found in horseradish? Or that some shampoo and skin care products contain oats? The list goes on! Agriculture also has a major impact on the economy. Canola - now the oil of choice for millions around the world - was developed by Canadian scientists and planted by Canadian farmers. Today, Canada contributes nearly 40% to global canola imports.

No Wonder our Beef Gets All Dressed Up

Agriculture's meaty contributions. There are approximately 4 million beef cows in Canada. In addition, roughly 26 million pigs are raised in Canada each year, making us the world's third-largest exporter of pork products.

Manufacturing Greatness

Manufacturing...the greatest thing since sliced bread

Our industry goes well beyond the field. When a Canadian product leaves the farm, its success story is just getting started.

Manufacturing is a critical part of the contribution made by agriculture to the modern economy. In today's world, not too many people take home a sack of grain and mill it themselves; they rely on manufacturing to prepare products for home use. The food and beverage processing industry is one of the largest in Canada with shipments worth $92.9 billion. It accounts for 16% of total manufacturing shipments and for 2% of Canada's gross domestic product. It's the largest manufacturing employer and provides jobs to more than 290,000 Canadians.

Agriculture and agri-food grows the economy in a wide variety of ways, including over $90 billion generated manufacturing each year in related manufacturing.

Visit for videos on agricultural innovation in Canada.

Science Can Help Small Farmers Feed Africa

In a story by Kanayo Nwanze of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Clement Kofi Humado in AllAfrica, the need for agricultural research was underlined.

"While spending on agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2008, most of that growth was in just a few countries. Only eight of 31 countries have met the target for agricultural research and development investment of 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which was set at the 2004 African Union Summit in Khartoum, Sudan," they observed in AllAfrica.

Citing the fact that growth generated by agriculture is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors, they encouraged countries to focus on the benefits of science to agriculture.


Felix Dodds is one of the team leading the development of a Conference in March 2014 on food, energy, water, and climate. This follows the 2012 conference in Germany on the Nexus topics where I spoke on water and agriculture.

They are calling for submissions on:

  • climate-water-energy

  • climate-food-energy

  • climate -water-food

Go to the Nexus web site: It is also a good time to start thinking about side events.

Responsible Agricultural Investments

The UN Committee on Food Security is working on new principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment. In our role as secretariat for the Internatiional Agri-Food Network, our team co-ordinates the private sector mechanism input into this process. It will be a long and complicated negotiation. This video produced by the UN explains why the process is important and urges you to join in the discussion, a point driven home by the ever-compelling David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Food Security.

My comments pop up at 4:05: If you would like to participate in the private sector mechanism don't hesitate to contact me or visit

High Level Political Forum

HLPF replaces CSD

In case there aren’t enough acronyms floating around the UN, the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) has been agreed as a means to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Negotiations on a new body to discuss sustainable development have been bogged down and have just concluded, a month behind schedule. Many of the decisions appear to be compromises that ultimately keep the status quo. The most notable change is the move to a 4 year format for a High Level meeting and annual 8 day events under ECOSOC.

A very complex structure means the HLPF will be convened under both the General Assembly of the UN and ECOSOC.

The meetings organized under the General Assembly are to be convened with Heads of State and Government every four years at the beginning of the UNGA session for a period of two days. The first meeting will be a one day session at the opening of the General Assembly this September.

The ECOSOC meetings will occur annually for a period of eight days, with a three-day ministerial segment in the ECOSOC substantive session, which will replace the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) in 2016. With a mandate to review implementation of sustainable development agreements, the annual result is to be a negotiated ministerial declaration for inclusion in the report of ECOSOC to the UNGA.

For those of us outside the UN system who wish to participate, the Major Groups system has been reaffirmed which includes the nine groups: science, farmers, NGOs, local authorities, indigenous peoples, women, business, labour, and youth. The entire process will continue to be supported by DESA as the UN secretariat.

Quite aside from the machinations regarding format, the workload remains firmly committed to the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental. There is also a specific mandate on sustainable consumption and production and to review the Post 2015 development goal implementations. In 2014, there is also an agreement to create a world global sustainable development report.

Manyinga Project Update

The Manyinga Project is pleased to report that over half of the $39,000 budgeted for this year has been raised, and many of the goals that were set are well under way to being achieved. Other great news to report:


100% of the children at both schools who sat for the Grade 7 national exams passed. In addition, the Zambian government continues to recognize the excellent work being done at the schools and now has 8 of the project’s teachers on payroll.

Students at Samafunda mug for the camera during the Ronald’s visit in January.Capital Projects

This year’s budget includes $5,000 for a new school building in Samafunda, which has been in desperate need of replacement for some years. We are pleased to report that construction has started and we expect it to be completed in the next few months. Fencing improvements for the orchards, gardens and livestock has also been a priority this year, so new materials were ordered in May and are being installed now.

Agriculture Program

A crop rotation program of corn and sweet potato has been introduced to the school’s fields, providing students with a valuable lesson in diversification and experience in growing a variety of crops. The gardens are also undergoing diversification, producing tomatoes, brassicas, Chinese cabbage, eggplant and onion. The orchards, vegetable gardens and goat herds at both schools have greatly benefited from the protection of the new fencing and are doing well.


The introduction of a permanent health nurse has dramatically improved the health of our students, with regular school-wide checks for signs of malnourishment, basic hygiene, cuts and scrapes that need attention and de-worming. In addition, preventative education for afflictions common to the area, including tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and diarrhea has been introduced.

With your help, the Manyinga project has made great strides in improving the lives of over 400 orphan and vulnerable children annually by providing them with the education and life skills they will need to thrive in and contribute to the communities of Samafunda and Chinema.

If you have any questions about the project, or how to get involved, please send us an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you would like to make a donation to the project this year, please help us reach our goal before the summer ends by donating here.

International Food Trader

International Food Trader magazine has published an interview with Robynne Anderson on the International Year of Pulses. Journalist Charlie Higgins asked questions about how the year will be organized and the funding required. Read more about the opportunity to galvanize activity and attention on pulses at 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

Read the full interview with Robynne Anderson.

Could 2016 be the International Year of Pulses?

The International Pulse Trade Federation, CICILS, has declared it is “delighted” to see the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) vote in favour of a proposal to declare 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

Prior to the vote on Saturday 22 June, CICILS executives were in Rome urging FAO diplomats not to miss the opportunity to raise awareness of how pulses contribute to food security, nutrition and healthy soils.

Also on hand to support the cause was the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), an informal coalition of trade associations that gives a voice to the private sector in Rome.

Saturday’s vote by FAO members represents the next stage in the Pulse Year bid. The proposal for an International Year of Pulses will now be submitted to the UN General Assembly in New York and we are counting on the world leaders to back the idea. Originally proposed by the Turkish and Pakistani governments, the idea of an International Year of Pulses has quickly gained traction among governments worldwide.

Not least those of India and West Africa, where agricultural livelihoods benefit hugely from the production of pulses.

Developing countries contribute 70% of pulse production globally but are in need of improved research and planting techniques in order to improve productivity. An International Year would facilitate knowledge of how to use pulses to their true advantage.

As the UN looks to implementing a more environmentally sustainable future, an International Year would provide an opportunity to promote the direct positive impacts pulses have on soil quality, as well as reducing reliance on agricultural inputs and water use.

Linking Smallholders to Markets

Agriculture for Impact released its report on linking smallholders to markets in Africa. The document focuses on the realities of forming market linkages and notes three key considerations are: the business case, the approach to linking and how to organise links.

"Links will only work if there is a return on investment for smallholder farmers and for their partners in the supply chains. That depends, above all, on governments fulfilling basic roles for the economy: the creation of an enabling investment climate; and the provision of rural public goods and transport in particular. If that sounds demanding, it should not: conditions do not have to be perfect, the key is to remove the worst failings, such as the high implicit taxation of agriculture that prevailed in the 1970s and that slowed agricultural growth at that time. The corollary applies as well: once these conditions are met, (some) progress is likely by private initiative alone."

Based on a range of case studies, they identify some of the challenges to making market linkages work which includes the need to aggregate farmers and to take value chain approach that looks at bottlenecks among all stakeholders in an open forum.

The recommendations offered in the report are:


  • Focusing first and foremost on the two basic public roles of setting an enabling investment climate and providing rural public goods has paid off handsomely for countries in Asia, and for some countries in Africa. The advice does not require perfection that would be difficult for most low income countries to achieve; but rather, to make sure that any gross failings and deficiencies are remedied.

  • Recognise that in providing rural public goods, most of the budget will not be going through the ministry of agriculture, but through ministries of transport, education, health and water.

  • Set up forums for value-chains with the participation of key players. Make sure that they have the political support and active engagement of ministers. Be prepared to react to findings, above all in being prepared to change policies and regulations.

  • Consider establishing challenge funds that can support initiatives to make more effective links. These may be in the form of open and competitive sources of finance, or else administered through ministry units that scout for opportunities and allocate funds accordingly.

  • Monitor the results of these initiatives, learn from them and publish the results.


  • Support governments in fulfilling their basic roles, both in technical assistance on the investment climate, and in funding investment in rural public goods in low income countries where public resources are currently insufficient.

  • Beware of projects to promote the engagement of smallholders with high-value, export markets. While some will make sense, beware that these may cause actions that potentially benefit many more smallholders to be lost to view. Reading Vorley et al. 2012 would be a useful antidote.

  • Take processes in market engagement seriously. Fast, certain, failure-free, programmable results cannot be expected. If this cannot be handled by the organisational structures and systems — and indeed culture — of the agency, then look to fund agencies that can act flexibly and take risks. Funding NGOs directly, or setting up challenge funds is one way to do this. Investing in a portfolio of efforts gives the best chance that there will be sufficient success to justify the outlay.

  • Encourage learning. Look to fund reviews of experience, documentation and dissemination of lessons. Link practitioners, look for innovative ways to communicate.


  • Monitor, learn, document and publish.

  • Deal with the possibilities of failure. Having a portfolio of activities is one answer. Beware of depending too much on particular projects and models: keep options open, stay flexible.

  • Participate in stakeholder forums.


  • Smallholders can be suppliers to processors, exporters and retailers, but finding effective ways to do this may take time and encounter setbacks.

  • It may not be necessary to acquire land and go into farming, with the corresponding investment costs and risks; even if there are exceptions, such as nucleus estates, to guarantee throughput to processing plants and to act as demonstrations for out-growers.

Read the full report here:

A Great Partnership in African Ag

A new centre to facilitate research and training in agribusiness will be created in Ghana with support of Africa Atlantic, MIT and the Harvard Kennedy School. It will facilitate industry training of farmers as entrepreneurs, as well as innovation in sustainable economic, environmental and social impact designs. The Agribusiness Knowledge Center will be built in the Afram Plains region of Ghana, on Africa Atlantic’s 25,927 acre (10,497 ha) site on the shoreline of Lake Volta.

More support is needed for training in agriculture to meet the demands of a growing world. If this model is successful, it would be tremendous to see such centres replicated, integrating training with contract outgrower operations. For more information see

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