By Jim Hynes
The third McGill Conference on Global Food Security got under way at Montreal’s Centre Mont-Royal Tuesday night with a public lecture and the official launch of a new McGill institute dedicated to alleviating poverty and improving human health and well-being.
Provost Anthony Masi and Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, made the announcement about the new Institute on Global Food Security. An initiative of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, as is the conference, the Institute is aimed at raising awareness about the food-security issues worldwide, training the next generation of researchers to tackle these problems and advancing research.
“The time to reinvest in agriculture, food production and nutrition is now,” Madramootoo said. “Research and development, technology transfer, education and the dissemination of knowledge are so critical to alleviating the hunger and poverty being experienced by over one billion people. These are the reasons why, today, we are launching the McGill Institute for Global Food Security. We realize that the challenges are daunting, but we intend to focus the attentions and the minds of our staff, students and post-doctorate fellows on finding solutions and help to advance the annual agricultural productivity growth while conserving natural resources and minimizing environmental degradation.”
“I look forward to the future accomplishments of this Institute with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope,” said Masi, before officially unveiling its new logo.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition.
“I’m delighted McGill is taking such leadership of something of such developmental importance,” he said.
Nabarro focused on ways in which different parts of the international system work together in pursuit of immediate action for those who are most urgently in need of help and efforts to ensure longer-term food security and resilience in the face of shocks – with a particular focus on the world’s most vulnerable populations. He explained the Comprehensive Framework for Action of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which encourages “collective actions in pursuit of immediate and longer terms of outcomes to be taken by different stakeholders working in partnership under the leadership of national authorities.”
“It is now time to make food security a reality and realize MDG-1 (the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger),” Nabarro said. “This means keeping people – and their food and nutritional security – at the centre of all we do. This means maintaining the focus on smallholder agriculture – investing in small-scale farmers, agribusinesses, processors and markets. It means building the capacity of farmers organizations and associations so that they can be fully involved in policymaking and practice – working for poor people means working with them.”
Federal International Relations Minister Bev Oda echoed Nabarro on the importance of small-scale farming.
“Canada believes we must increase and share research and knowledge about such issues as how to become more resilient to natural disasters and the use of drought-resistant seeds with the small-scale farmers, who are the backbone of agriculture in developing countries,” Oda said. “That is why, as part of Canada’s new food security strategy, CIDA and the International Development Research Centre have launched the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, or CIFS Research Fund, to support practical applied food security research in developing countries.
“And I would like to congratulate McGill University on establishing the McGill Institute on Global Food Security that will be training the next generation of researchers whose work, hopefully, will be supported by the CIFS Research Fund in the future.”
The third McGill Conference on Global Food Security, which ends today, attracted representatives from international organizations, research centres and government to discuss the challenges of water scarcity and malnutrition around the world. For more information on the Third McGill Conference on Global Food Security, please visit: www.mcgill.ca/globalfoodsecurity/