Evidence of meeting #35 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 ethiopia.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Philip Baker  Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Leslie Lefkow  Deputy Director, Africa, Human Rights Watch

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Paul Dewar

You have 20 seconds.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

The UN has a World Food Programme dealing with the distribution of food. Their mandate is not just to distribute food but also to make regions supply food.

Ethiopia used to be a breadbasket. How are you going to have long sustainability in agricultural production? I know you mentioned some cases of storage, marketing, and of distributing it around the region.

4:05 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

You've got the two approaches that I mentioned. We've got programs for the food insecure. We've talked a bit about that. Then you have programs for the food secure, who can become more productive and look towards becoming more of a breadbasket.

We have a program of $20 million, for instance, called the agricultural growth program. On that front you're trying to take the areas that are slightly more sound and doing good produce—and which don't have so many climate change implications—further in the value chain to market, so they can generate more income, spread the wealth within their communities, and grow stronger food security.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Paul Dewar

Thank you.

We're going to now go to five-minute rounds.

We're going to go to the Conservatives and Mr. Dechert, and then we're going to go to Mr. Van Kesteren

May 2nd, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Just briefly, I want to respond for the benefit of Mr. Eyking and the rest of the committee about the situation concerning Mr. Makhtal. As Mr. Eyking pointed out, Minister Baird did visit Mr. Makhtal personally in Ethiopia in February 2011. Since then my counterpart, Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, has visited him twice. Both Minister Baird and Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai have met with the Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs and pressed his case.

Through these actions we've gained consular access to Mr. Makhtal to ensure his health and welfare. Our consul officials are visiting him regularly. They are also in contact with his family to provide them with updates on his health and situation. We continue to monitor the situation and to meet with Mr. Makhtal and to press this case with the Ethiopian officials.

Of course we would never link that to providing emergency aid to the poorest people of Ethiopia, nor do I expect Mr. Eyking to suggest that we should, but everyone should know that we're pressing Mr. Makhtal's cases as forcefully as we can with the Government of Ethiopia.

I'd like to defer to Mr. Van Kesteren.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Baker, it's good to see you again.

In your notes on page three you said examples of the results to which CIDA contributed included a decline in the annual food gap from 3.6 months to.... Correct me if I'm wrong, but does that mean there are only 2.3 months with no production as opposed to 3.6? Is that what that means?

4:05 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

The amount of time a family goes without adequate food has been reduced from 3.6 months per year to 2.3 through the ambitions and the work of that program.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

So this is exciting stuff. This is really a success story, isn't it, as mentioned a few minutes ago.

Can you tell the committee if, prior to all the upheaval when we go back to the eighties and the seventies, Ethiopia was a bread basket? What's the capacity for food production in Ethiopia? What do you believe are their capabilities as far as the production of food in that area?

4:05 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

There is huge capacity for arable land in Ethiopia that is currently unused. It does bring you around to the discussion you'll likely hear more about in the second portion of your session today, about the use of that land and the plans for the use of that land. But currently what is under cultivation now is just a fraction of what it could be.

You'll see the same thing in South Sudan for example. There is an awful lot of potential in this part of the world in spite of this massive drought that has hit the Horn of Africa. Huge strides could be made on food security and the notion of expanding beyond their borders for intra-African trade, which right now sits at about 10% across the continent. We all believe that a massive first front for looking at the growth and the advancement of Africa is through intra-African trade between neighbouring countries.

On food security that's a huge front right now. In fact next week there's a huge meeting in Addis called Grow Africa, which is looking at African countries presenting their state and their opportunities to private sector companies to look at what collaboration could be generated. Donor countries will be there as well to try to look to see where they could play a little bit of a matchmaking role and places where we could potentially engage.

In Ethiopia, there is huge potential on this front, and we have to continue to make sure that as they progress this way, we do ensure the recognition and the protection of human rights.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

So this is a different story than, say for instance, Sudan where there were a lot of more backward tribes. This is a country that traditionally...but as a result of war and famine, which is usually caused by war....

It's been said and I think everybody would agree too that you're not likely to fight with your neighbour if you're trading with your neighbour, so good trading relations are so important.

Are we doing enough and are we moving in the right direction with that kind of assistance? I'm thinking, as you know, we have a study here where private industry can help the development process.

Are we doing enough to help develop their resources as well so that stability and law and order and good governance can gain a foothold in Ethiopia? Are there areas you see where we can be more effective as a Canadian government?

4:10 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

When we look at the three thematic themes that are driving CIDA—the notion of children and youth, sustainable economic growth, and food security—under the sustainable economic growth theme, one of three components that talks about building the foundations, or what I often call “the enabling environment”, to allow the private sector to blossom and to allow appropriate growth or sustainable economic growth.

On that front the prime minister for Ethiopia has made strong calls for more investment from donors on the side of sustainable economic growth. These are the discussions I referred to earlier on how we develop our programs. We do it in discussion with the recipient government. Those discussions have begun with the Government of Ethiopia where they're interested in seeing Canada perhaps be more involved on the sustainable economic growth sector or theme, in addition to the work we've been doing currently, for instance, on food security or health procurement of commodities.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Paul Dewar

Thank you. We have to hold you there.

We're now going to go back to the NDP.

Mrs. Laverdière you have 5 minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, and thank you for your interesting presentation and answers to our questions.

You also said that your drive was poverty reduction. That's your mandate, and Mr. Dechert was saying a bit earlier that we wouldn't link this with emergency aid, but I assume you meant development assistance and human rights issues.

Human Rights Watch has issued a report saying that Ethiopia is using international development assistance for state repression, discrimination, and violations of civil and political rights. They had serious concerns with CIDA and other donor organizations. So there's an issue there that needs to be looked at.

I think CIDA announced in January that it would investigate the use of aid money in Ethiopia. This was after news broke about the Ethiopian government forcing 70,000 indigenous people in the western Gambela region off their land. Now, has CIDA already started the investigation announced in January? If so, when can we expect some results?

4:10 p.m.

Acting Regional Director General, Southern and Eastern Africa, Canadian International Development Agency

Philip Baker

You're referring to something that in the popular press is discussed as the process of villagization. The government of Ethiopia calls it a commune program. It is under way in Gambela and three other regions of the country. The stated aim of the government was to target the four least developed or least-reached regions in order to bring improved access to basic services for the population. It is a program that has not had donor support, so it's a little different from some of the other pooled funds or national programs that donors support through the World Bank.

Still, donors have been extremely interested and keen to ensure that violations of human rights are not occurring. The intent of the program is voluntary, not involuntary, relocation, and the notion is to bring better access to water, housing, and opportunities for improved livelihoods. The donors have started to look at Gambela and several other regions. They are looking at just how this program is being implemented. And the conclusion of the donors is that there are definitely some good results. It is voluntary. That has been the conclusion of the donor's review. At the same time, they have identified several areas where they feel that improvements could be made, but they have seen no credible evidence of widespread or systematic violation of human rights.

So that's key. It doesn't mean that they sit back and think that everything's good. The process continues. The donors collectively developed and presented to the government a set of guidelines for resettlement together with an action plan. One of the examples of the recommendations, for instance, was that they have to do a lot more work on preparation of these areas before they move people into them. They found that there were people coming into areas that had limited sanitation facilities.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Who are the other donor countries involved in that review or investigation?