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Over 70 per cent of Indigenous producers plan to increase agricultural participation, survey says


March 29, 2021
By Farm Credit Canada (edited)

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Photo courtesy of Farm Credit Canada

An online survey indicated that more than 70 per cent of Indigenous producers plan to increase participation in the agricultural sector over the next five years, despite reporting a poor to average experience in the sector.

Commissioned by agricultural lender Farm Credit Canada (FCC), a survey of Indigenous producers and stakeholders identified some of the top challenges as access to capital, equipment, labour and knowledge.

To sustain the growth needed to re-establish Indigenous food security, respondents placed a high priority on the need to create agricultural and financial learning opportunities for Indigenous youth. They also want to see a deliberate approach for preparing the next generation to continue growing agriculture and food businesses, while fostering relationships with elders who offer a wealth of traditional knowledge.

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Shaun Soonias. Photo credit: FCC

“There is a rich history and traditions of Indigenous agriculture prior to European settlement, and we are now several generations removed from those practices and knowledge,” said Shaun Soonias, director of FCC Indigenous relations. Soonias is also a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation near Battleford, Saskatchewan. “FCC not only has an opportunity to better understand the landscape of Indigenous agriculture in Canada but, more importantly, provide Indigenous entrepreneurs with learning opportunities about agriculture and farm management.”

Most Indigenous producers and stakeholders surveyed suggested the key to overcoming the various challenges in Indigenous agriculture resides in training, education and mentorship opportunities, as well as access to capital to grow their businesses. There are also many Indigenous agri-food and agribusinesses that are well established, exporting their products internationally and expanding operations and others who are integrating indoor farming with traditional plants and medicines.

“As we gain a greater understanding of how to best support their success in agriculture, we will work in partnership with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and entrepreneurs to develop solutions that work for them, as well as address their community priorities,” Soonias said.

Almost half of those surveyed see significant opportunities in greenhouse operation, community gardens, Indigenous foods and food processing, although there is a wide range of other small-scale agriculture activities taking place on Indigenous lands.

“Diversification of Canada’s agriculture and food industry is one of our top priorities and an integral part of FCC’s mandate,” says Michael Hoffort, FCC’s president and CEO. “It begins with developing a deeper understanding of Indigenous agriculture – the history, barriers, aspirations and opportunities of today.”

The organization says they are providing extensive Indigenous awareness and relations training to its more than 2,000 employees across Canada, to help employees better understand the legislative and systemic barriers that prevent Indigenous communities from fully participating in Canada’s agriculture industry, as well as the historic, social and economic challenges facing First Nations, Métis and Inuit across Canada.

Source: Farm Credit Canada