Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Robynne Anderson is awarded the 2018 Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence

I am honored to say that, along with two other exceptional women, I have been chosen to receive the 2018 WIA Demeter Award of Excellence. The award recognizes those who have achieved excellence in their field or demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to the agribusiness industry.

“Nominated as a “visionary leader and facilitator of change… a leading international expert on agriculture and food policies, and a trusted, collaborative partner for our Canadian industry,” Robynne Anderson’s roots in ag go back to growing up on a seed farm in Manitoba. Anderson went on to found and lead two successful agribusinesses: Issues Ink, an agricultural publishing company, and Emerging Ag, an international consulting firm that provides communications services to ag, food and health clients. 

Anderson’s contributions to agriculture are diverse. Internationally, Anderson is the founder of Farming First, a coalition for global ag advocacy; she also helped build the International Agri-Food Network; and has worked closely with the UN to establish the group’s 2016 International Year of Pulses, and Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Agricultural Investment. She has worked extensively to increase the attention on the role of women farmers, and support land tenure rights for women in places where those rights don’t exist.”

Learn more about the award and its recipients here.

Balancing our Approach to Agriculture: The Global Livestock Advocacy for Development

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the Global Livestock Advocacy for Development (GLAD) project. GLAD is a two-year project working to raise interest in livestock-related research for development. 

GLAD distils and presents evidence on sustainable livestock and its development impacts. Since the project was launched in 2016, progress has been exciting. Recently, key livestock actors convened at several high level international events and engaged stakeholders in livestock advocacy communications. This engagement led to the inclusion of livestock in key global policy discussions relating to food security and sustainable development. 

This project has highlighted why we need to rebalance our approach to agriculture and value all its components from crops, to livestock, to horticulture, to agro-forestry, to fisheries.

Read “Enhancing global livestock advocacy for sustainable development” on the ILRI news site.

Learn more about GLAD:  


Tackling Childhood Growth Failure with Pulses

Pulses can be a major player in the fight against one of the most urgent global food challenges: malnutrition. A recent clinical study in Malawi has found that complementary feeding with cowpeas reduces stunting in children and improves overall gut health.

In African children, stunting usually occurs between 6 to 15 months, when complementary foods are first introduced. When cowpeas were added to the complementary feeding of Malawian infants aged between 6 and 12 months, stunting significantly reduced in height by age scores. For children between 12 and 36 months, the addition of navy beans to their diets led to an improvement in gut health and reduced inflammation. With global trends showing a sobering increase in world hunger and malnutrition, this is an exciting development!

Despite increased focus on issues of hunger and malnutrition, trends show that we are still moving backwards in our fight against these challenges. Recent research has found that high levels of Child Growth Failure such as wasting and stunting continue to persist in Africa. In 2016, an estimated 36.6% of children under five were stunted, 8.6% wasted and 19.5% underweight in Sub-Saharan Africa. Childhood Growth Failure (CGF) was the second leading risk factor for child mortality and accounted for more than 23% of deaths of children under five. Africa is not expected to meet the Target to end malnutrition, specifically wasting and stunting, by 2030.

To tackle the issue of stunting in children, an affordable and accessible solution like this one is critical. The Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab, supporters of this research, “believe that grain legume supplements in diets could be game changers for addressing stunting and gut health in undernourished young children in developing countries”, and we commend their good work towards this goal. These positive research outcomes an excellent reminder of why Burkina Faso is leading the charge for a World Pulse Day to be declared.

Since the UN declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, we have seen an increase in the awareness and consumption of pulses around the globe. Pulses are a nutrient powerhouse packed with protein, nutrients and amino acids; the results of this clinical study prove that they can be an impactful weapon in tackling the scourge of stunting in children, thus boosting food and nutrition security in the developing world.

Follow me for more reflections on agriculture, in Canada and across the world, on Twitter at @Robynne_A



Respect: Advancing Women in Agriculture

When you think about agriculture and food, women are involved in every aspect.  We represent most of the world’s smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, grocery buyers, and household cooks. So if women are a vast part of every aspect of producing and serving our food, why is there a dearth of them in leadership in agriculture?

Last week, I had the honour of discussing that with 30 great women working in agriculture in Singapore. @WOMAGasia regularly brings together women and men to talk about new issues in agriculture.  This is important because building networks, getting training, and the need for gender equity is a conversation that needs to happen with women and men together.

But on this night, they took the time to have a special, frank conversation about what are the challenges we face in getting women into leadership roles in agriculture. It was cathartic and empowering as we talked about how to get mentors, the challenges of imposter syndrome, and how to deal with work-life balance.  There was great advice from around the table and collectively our insights helped us all think of ways to navigate a male-dominated world.

From time to time it was even a bit depressing as we faced the realities that all of us (me included) had been put in socially inappropriate situations and some #MeToo moments. However, strength comes from numbers and 30 women discussing how to manage these situations certainly left us all with new tools and a wonderful sense of solidarity. As more of us come into leadership roles, I hope we will find the incidence of these problems begin to drop away. In addition, I’ve always found that a great aspect of men in agriculture is that they tend to have grown up on farms and have a strong sense of community and family. They don’t want their daughters in those situations, and they can be an important force for social adjustment in agriculture.

One male farmer was smart enough to raise that we need a daycare service at major farm shows like FarmTech to make it easier for women to attend the meetings. That’s a great idea. As a matter of fact, it was a group of men at Duxton Asset Management who had the idea to host this event in Singapore and sponsored it at Straits Wine Company.

We also need to think about how to proactively engage women in industry conferences, advance them to boards, and recognize their accomplishments. I remain deeply touched by being inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, but so conscious that there are only 8 women among 210 men.  There is no way this gap reflects the efforts of my mother, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmothers in rural Canada and all the other women who have been the backbone of agriculture.  The fault of this does not lie at the door of men. We, as a society, need to be thinking about recognizing women more often – and we women should be at the front lines of thinking of great female talent to propose. Because, together we are stronger.

Women throughout agriculture can do more to band together and help each other. I hope a new “Old girls’ network” will come to co-exist with the “Old boys’ network” that will be fully diverse and inclusive. I hope that soon we’ll just be people equitably sharing leadership roles. We are half the world’s population and one of these days I hope we will #FilltheGap to become half of agricultural leadership.

Happy International Women’s Day!

More Than Pretty Landscapes: How Canada Stacks Up Globally on Sustainability

Our friends at Real Agriculture took the time to interview me at FarmTech in Alberta.  It is always fun to chat with Shaun, and got to discuss how Canada is doing on sustainable agriculture.  It is particularly important since progress is being made on some global indicators that would allow more consistent and direct comparisons between countries.  I think Canada is going to stack up well.  Canada’s already made lots of progress on soil health through the use of conversation tillage.  Now we need to focus in on improving crop rotations and measures on biodiversity.  It’s great to see people already thinking about intercropping and other solutions to drive us to the next great innovations in agriculture. Onwards to continuous improvement!

Watch the interview here.