Livelihoods & child protection

OTTAWA, May 12, 2015—CFTC’s President & CEO Debra Kerby and Senior Advisor, Food Security & Environmental Sustainability Sohel Khan were honoured to testify before The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on May 12, 2015 in Ottawa. They presented CFTC’s view of the critical importance of women’s livelihoods and income generating opportunities on child protection issues. The transcript of their remarks follows.


STATEMENT TO: The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development with respect to the protection of children and youth in developing countries

BY: Debra D. Kerby, President & CEO, and Sohel Khan, Senior Advisor, Food Security and Environmental Sustainability, Canadian Feed The Children

Good morning ~

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee today.

As a Canadian secular international development agency founded in 1986, Canadian Feed The Children’s mission is to reduce the impact of poverty on children by providing children, parents, local partners and communities with the resources needed for self-sufficiency and resilience, and by strengthening local organizations with a focus on change that benefits children.

Our current countries of focus are Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Bolivia, Haiti, and First Nations communities in Canada.

Over the past five years, we’ve streamlined our development approach and increased our focus on the related issues of education and food security based in strong local capacity building.

We have transformed from an agency that historically delivered a wide variety of activities in many countries each year to one that now targets specific outcomes to address broad development challenges and create tangible, long-term results using a Theory of Change approach.

As identified by a previous speaker to this Committee, CFTC is aligned with UNICEF’s vision of the evolution of the child protection sector, characterized by “a move away from addressing child protection issues in isolation to a more holistic approach ~ with a focus on overall systems strengthening, and addressing social determinants of child protection failings.”

CFTC addresses the social determinants of child protection through adequate nutrition in the early childhood and primary school years – and access to education, especially for girls.

Access to nutritional food and to education is only possible where food security – especially for mothers – exists.

Working through women to increase the health and well-being of children is central to our work, and to the contribution we can make to the Government of Canada’s mandate on maternal, newborn and child health.

At CFTC, systems strengthening takes place on two levels: through organizational systems development at our global headquarters in Canada; and locally, where we support strengthening of local NGO partners and communities themselves.

In Canada, we are honoured to have been recognized for excellence in good governance and financial transparency, winning the Voluntary Sector Reporting Award of Excellence for Transparency in Financial Reporting for our Annual Report in 2012, 2013 and 2014 ~ as well as becoming one of the first non-profits in Canada to achieve Imagine Canada Standards accreditation.

CFTC shares these best practices in governance and financial excellence, as well as technical and capacity building expertise, with our local NGO partners to support their ability to move from dependence to independence. For example, over the last two years local partners in Uganda and Ghana have secured significant levels of institutional donor funding ~ in part through our support for their strengthened governance, financial, and monitoring and evaluation systems, which have allowed them to demonstrate both greater accountability and greater impact.

In 2013, CFTC received a DFATD grant of $2 million for what we call CHANGE: our Climate Change Adaptation in Northern Ghana Enhanced project.

CHANGE has helped to transform the lens through which we view our contribution to child and youth protection.

The cross-cutting themes of environmental impact, disaster risk reduction, and gender equity are core elements within CHANGE that help create more resilient and food-secure communities.

CHANGE is perhaps the best example of a project where the interconnections between women’s health and participation in the local economy and the resulting positive impact on children’s nutrition and health are most evident.

We agree with DFATD’s position that if protection and security issues are not addressed, “investments in health, education, and other areas may not bring lasting improvements.” This is why CFTC’s programs, especially those that strengthen opportunities for women, are at their heart child-centric.

For example, women in one CHANGE focus group held in early 2013 spoke about growing food insecurity resulting in an increased incidence of stunting and wasting among children; and the reduction of meals from three times, to twice to sometimes only once a day as a result of a shortage of food or income to buy it.

They also reported reductions in household income as a result of crop failures leading to their inability to keep their children in school and pay for health insurance. These are all examples of how the changing environment and reduced agricultural production in northern Ghana are directly impacting the safety and protection of children.

Since that time, CHANGE has:
• included women in agricultural training opportunities;
• given women leadership positions in farmer-based organizations; and
• granted land to women to grow crops and materials required for agricultural and non-agricultural income generation.

Right now, in CHANGE communities in northern Ghana, more than 70% of farmer beneficiaries are women – far in excess of the original CHANGE target of 40%.

We have seen a dramatic improvement in women’s crop yields: from one to two bags to up to ten bags per acre, close to a 10-fold increase.

Women are now participating at increasing levels in farming activities; they are gaining the knowledge they need to boost their own productivity and a stronger voice in community economic development; and they are being recognized for the value they can contribute to household and community food security.

Most importantly, they are now able to feed their children nutritious food, send and keep them in school, and pay for basic necessities like clothing, repairs to their homes, and health care.

CFTC also supports women’s micro-finance groups in Ethiopia and Uganda where more than 10,000 members – 80% of whom are women – are earning income.

These groups offer important channels to ensure that increased household income leads to better nutrition for children. CFTC’s local NGO partners are delivering nutrition education to group members which is designed to ensure that household income directly translates into improved quantity and quality of the food children eat.

We are seeing these efforts pay off: there has been a 73% increase in income among self-help group members; and 93% of those who reported increased income have spent “some” or “all” of it on food.

We are also seeing significant progress in our work in First Nations communities in Canada, where we started with breakfast and lunch programs and are now rolling out community-led, community-based nutrition programs ~ one in Eel Ground First Nation outside Miramichi, New Brunswick, and another north of Owen Sound, Ontario with the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. Our work on child protection in Canada is informed by our international work, and is in turn informing our education and nutrition programs in indigenous communities in the developing world, such as Bolivia.

It is CFTC’s position that increasing women’s livelihood opportunities … plus … empowering women with agriculture training, leadership opportunities, and nutrition education … leads to … healthier, safer, more secure lives for children.

Development that is truly community-based and community-led is critical to ensure community ownership of long-term development goals and processes. Community-led adaptation and action can also reduce the risks and effects of environmental-related disasters should they occur ~ therefore decreasing reliance on humanitarian assistance.

In closing, UNICEF stated that “the single most important determinant of whether a child in the developing world will live to see her or his fifth birthday is a measure of that family’s, the mother’s in particular, access to education and to income.”

We appreciate the Canadian Government’s Maternal, Newborn & Child Health strategy and its commitment to long-term engagement in development. We call upon the Government of Canada to continue to support long-term approaches to the protection of children, focusing on mothers’ access to education, enhanced income, and the provision of nutritious foods to drive food security for the protection of children and their families.

Thank you.