Evidence of meeting #15 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was financial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Yvon Bernier  Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins
  • Christina Dendys  Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative
  • Doug Horswill  Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

Once again I want to commend your commitment to do this work. There is a role for the private sector to play in supporting the work that CIDA does overseas.

One of the common threads that's running through the presentations and that really amplified it for me today is that the private sector is playing a critical role. At the same time, however, when you look at it, the public sector is also playing a critical role. As you said, for every dollar you put in, four dollars of it comes out of CIDA. Once again, it points to the importance of the work we do through CIDA and the international commitments we make. One of you made the comments about the high regard CIDA is held in, because we don't do all our work through multilateral organizations; we do so much of it in partnership with NGOs and with private enterprise as well.

One of the concerns we've been hearing is that this government has frozen the funding at a certain level. This is going to have an impact on the kind of delivery people are able to make because of the cost. Costs go up. For the projects you're engaged in, how will you manage with not getting the increases that you might expect if there was just a percentage, as it normally was? Will it have an impact on your projects?

9:55 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

It will have a huge impact on our projects if future support from CIDA was somehow compromised. This is due to the sustainability of the work, as my colleague was saying. The goal is to do good programming and then pass it along so you can leave and go somewhere else.

One of the things about the vitamin A story that I haven't told as part of CIDA support is that we're working with national governments so that they take on that programming, so that we actually get out and move somewhere else where it's needed. Predictability of support and sustained support is absolutely crucial to development. Anybody who works in our sector recognizes that the globe is a shrinking place and that aid matters. They would like to see the aid envelope expanding, not decreasing. I don't think that's controversial.

10 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Do you have something to add, Mr. Bernier?

10 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Yes.

I think everyone would like there to be more international aid given the current global context and the needs we hear about every day. Everyone would like international aid to increase and diversify and for more countries to be helped. That's a major wish.

The Canadian population must support governments so this remains a priority and a portion of our GDP or appropriate budgets is set aside.

However, we, individually and as a society, must deserve these projects. It's never automatic. We can never predict 10 years in advance that we'll have a portfolio that will enable us to create 25 projects. Every project is earned, and there will always be projects to carry out. We must add value to projects and thus promote development that is appropriate to the countries in which we intervene.

Every time we look at our budgets and see what is going on, we try to create more and better projects that have more impact, that are able to reach as many as possible and that, especially, are wanted and desired by the communities in which we intervene.

10 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

I think that's one of the things we're hearing from many of the NGOs that have applied for funding. They're not saying it's their right to be given that, but they followed the timelines we had established. We now have over 50 groups waiting.

One of the other concerns we're hearing expressed is that many times they feel that announcements are being held at opportune times for us to make political announcements. They've given some examples of those, like the Muskoka initiative, which was held off for a certain event. Others have been accelerated.

I want to reiterate the importance of openness, transparency, and us living up to the timelines that CIDA established for itself, because others count on that and live up to their timelines. There is also the need for us to lift the freeze on the funding so we do not damage the very important work we do.

Do I still have time?

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

You're almost over time, but you can finish your point.

10 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

I think the key things you have pointed out to me over and over again include the important role that CIDA has to play, the importance of predictable funding, living up to our timelines, and committing ourselves to projects that have a real impact. When we don't do that as an organization our standing gets damaged internationally, it puts many organizations in jeopardy, and it creates a lot of confusion in the international arena.

Thank you.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

Ms. Brown.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I think it's important, when we are putting things on the record, that Canadians know first and foremost that our government doubled aid to Africa. One of the most important things we did was untie all of our food aid, and we are moving toward untying all of our aid. It's also important that we have joined the IATA for aid transparency to make sure Canadians know that the aid dollars going out there are being spent in the most effective manner to help the most people. I think that's what Canadians want to know.

Mr. Bernier, I'd like to address my question to you if I may. I had the opportunity to be in Bangladesh with Mrs. Dendys when she was in a different iteration. We had the opportunity to view quite a number of micro-finance projects that were being undertaken there. We saw that there was a tremendous impact on the whole community when these women got access to capital and were engaged in their own micro-finance businesses.

From your experience in providing these kinds of loans to communities, can you talk about the impact you have viewed, and let the committee know what kinds of positive results you have seen when women have access to capital and can provide for their families?

10:05 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

We conducted an impact study in Burkina Faso over a number of years to measure the impact of credit, among other things, particularly on women.

That study was conducted together with a network of caisses populaires—the equivalent of the financial institutions called credit unions in Canada—to measure the impact over a period of two or three years.

I don't have all the results to hand. However, I can say that we soon saw that, when credit was granted to women, that credit immediately led to an increase in productivity or revenue from their commercial activities. The women subsequently used their income to invest more in the family, in health and education. So there is an immediate impact on the quality of life of children and family: better nutrition, payment of school fees, access to primary health care. There is an immediate correlation. These are small short-term loans of approximately $100, which are made two or three times a year. When those loans are increased to approximately $500 or $800, the impact in the community is much more sustainable. There's a genuine impact on the size of the business of the woman in question. It multiplies. She can generate an additional job in her own environment or surplus revenue that enables her to reinvest and to grow her small business or crop. The impact is enormous.

I'm talking about Burkina Faso because that's the experiment I know best. If we replicate that across Burkina Faso, for example... Forty years ago Burkina Faso was DID's first partner. Today, the financial institution reaches a million inhabitants of that country. And there's still room as the penetration rate is around 8%. We should reach 25%. A lot of people still are not in the banking system and do not have a bank account or access to a bank account.

This institution alone mobilizes more than $300,000 and recycles as credit... Now there's a diversity of credit products—that's where we can measure the impact—ranging from credit and small pools for women, the equivalent of $50, which turn over very quickly, to a financial centre for businesses that offers loans of up to $10,000 or $15,000.

It's still network members, who were assisted and who were originally poor, who have improved their situations. Their financial institution has managed to assist them and has made increasingly large loans to them, as a result of which they have managed to develop specialties and are now able to finance their own businesses.

On the agriculture side—these financial institutions are also active in the rural community—this network reaches 10,000 farmers, which is a not negligible figure in that country. It is now being consulted by the country's authorities and the departments of agriculture because, based on its policies, its distribution network reaches a critical mass of producers, either in the form of specialized credit products or in other forms of state intervention which they need to speak with agricultural producers. So there is an enormous impact, but all that is built up over time. There is a maturity...

You always have to keep in mind that institutional support is necessary because capacity reinforcement changes over time. Forty years ago, we started up the caisse in a small village in the bush. Today we are introducing high technology so that they can work with cellular telephones to grant loans remotely. We are no longer engaged in the same areas of intervention, but consulting support is still necessary to accelerate these developments.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

I had the opportunity to visit one of the projects in Burkina Faso. Money had been loaned to a farmer to improve his herd and to improve the facilities where he was keeping his herd. Now he is providing, through a business, milk to a whole section of town that is raising healthier children. That is really the goal, is it not—to ensure that a community can build. So thank you.

Does Mr. Schellenberger have any time?

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

On your time he has none, but we're actually in a new round. I'm going to turn it over to him on his own time.

You have five minutes, sir.

December 6th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Thank you.

I've been intrigued here this morning with your presentations.

I have one little story. I remember, back when I was a teenager, I bought some calves at a community auction sale. One of them had a big goitre. When I brought it home, I thought, “I can't spend a lot of money, but I should talk to a veterinarian”. I talked to a veterinarian, and he said I couldn't afford him, but if I gave that calf iodine it would get rid of the goitre. Wouldn't you know, I went home and got my mother's iodine drops, I put a couple of drops of iodine in the milk that I fed this calf, and within a week the goitre was gone.

So yes, we don't need all the fancy stuff. If we look at the micronutrients that are natural out there, as you have explained today, those things will work. Most of our foods, at least our processed foods, are fortified. They do have vitamins and minerals or some of these things in them. I do understand what micronutrient initiatives can be in these countries.

My question is on the infrastructure to deliver these programs. Is there an infrastructure, or is it very hard to set up an infrastructure in these areas in Africa, say, to get to these people? Is that infrastructure readily available? Is there a problem getting the local communities involved when you come in with a program? Do we need more community participation? Do the local communities carry on these programs after you leave, and what is the success rate with that?

I know there are a few questions there. I put that out there for you.

10:10 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

You know, it's crucial to get local communities involved.

I don't know if you want to add something to this as well, Doug, but just taking the zinc example, just like here, when children present with diarrheal disease, one of the things is that moms don't always bring them to the hospital or to the clinic or the health post. Of course in Africa many health infrastructures are broken, so what we're trying to do is rebuild.

The way we work is to work through national governments to help them, but also to layer on our value-add to local INGOs that are working in that last mile. I keep calling it the last mile, because 80% of really poor people live very far away from urban centres in Africa. You have to really extend health close to home. That's the reality. We do it through a variety of ways.

Getting back to the zinc and ORS, about diarrheal disease, if you don't get the communities involved, through education and then social mobilization, using all sorts of methods, in terms of recognizing that zinc and ORS is a solution and will help their children be less sick.... I was just in Senegal, in a rural health post. They introduced us to all the grandmothers who had come in as part of the community involvement in this program. The grandmas--everywhere in the world, one would like to say, but in Africa particularly--have a very strong voice. Grandmas are being educated on the nutritional elements of helping to add micronutrients, plus making the local diet more nutritious, and then they're imparting that wisdom to their daughters and their children. That's an example of getting communities engaged and involved in using educational techniques and others to communicate a message so that you're getting closer to home.

10:10 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

Doug Horswill

My experience is in Nepal. It's exactly the issue of distribution. When we started this program, the CEO and myself felt that it was just about being able to count up the number of pills and the number of kids you save. Once you get into the field, you realize it's a lot more than that.

The issue in Nepal is that there's about 95% availability of zinc tablets, and only 7% use. The difference is primarily in the knowledge that's in the hands of the mothers and other health care workers. The effort is really around training, educating, and bringing people.... There are all sorts of fascinating ways they are doing that, but it's that part of the distribution chain that's the most difficult.

We take it for granted—that quality of food. When you think about it carefully, you realize these mothers are being offered maybe two choices. One has been sold to them for a long time, which is the antibacterial-type approach or antibiotics. What they don't know is that the diarrheas are primarily viral, and this solution has no use. But that's what they've been told in the past, and that's what they're counting on. If you bring something new, they're not confident that it will work. The risk factor is your child's life. So you can understand that they really have to learn and see. It's going to take time. It's sort of the way it goes.

I think this hearkens back to an earlier question to some degree—the notion of money and the volume of money. In my mind, the issue, and what I've seen out there, is it's the effective and efficient spending of the money that's important. That involves both a plan and then the monitoring, accounting for, and description afterwards.

What we're hoping to establish through our work with MI and CIDA is a model that allows the mobilization of some private sector money. Taxpayers won't be able to carry the whole load as this goes forward. We really have to find ways to mobilize private sector interests. Ours is one example. There are many others, such as Desjardins, and many of our colleague companies.

We need coordination of the effort, because there is a whole host of different organizations, each with their own particular interests. To some degree, they compete for the same dollars. To some extent, they bring different ideas to solve the same problem. Coordination is important, as well as effective mobilization of dollars from many sources, and the efficient, effective spending of those dollars.

It gets down into questions like "What is the real problem?" and trying to understand it. Is it the supply of vitamin A, zinc, or whatever it is? Is it the distribution system? Is it knowledge? There are people out there who increasingly know those answers, or at least they know them in a particular country's setting. But it may be different from one country to another, so they are starting to share knowledge among themselves. All of that is helping the whole thing out.