Project Highlight – Canadian Youth and Bilateral Trade

Empowering Canadian youth as global ambassadors for trade for development

Empowering Canadian youth as global ambassadors for trade for development
Around the world, 1 billion subsistence farmers are in need of empowering private-sector technologies such as inexpensive tools to reduce female drudgery, and at the same time, these farmers are looking to wealthier global consumers to purchase their farm products at fair market prices. A new era of international development aims to encourage such bi-lateral trade – to facilitate rapid scaling up of empowering innovations, leading to jobs and profit in both the developing South and the wealthier North, a trend that was recently enshrined by the formation of the new Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).

Canada is a world leader in the agri-food sector – including in the production and distribution of technologies to convert lower value farm products (e.g. raw grain) into higher-value consumer goods (e.g. flour, bread) — such value addition is typically lacking in developing nations, robbing them of profits. The University of Guelph, with support from IDRC, is testing the idea that the best ambassadors for such empowering agri-food technologies are Canadian youth – who can pitch Canadian technologies with compassion and conviction, and who reciprocally also know the tastes of Canadian consumers.
In the Fall of 2014, 200 undergraduates participated in the Canadian Youth Agri-Food Trade Ambassadors (CYAFTA) program. Participating CYAFTA students nominated and critically evaluated 135 Canadian technologies as potential export products to subsistence farmer nations, as well as 65 Nepalese products as potential import products to Canada – as part of independent study coursework. The program was developed by Prof. Manish Raizada at the University of Guelph, who currently leads a CIFSRF project in Nepal, in which one objective is to promote bi-lateral trade between Canada and Nepal in the agri-food sector. The students were primarily enrolled in the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and International Development Studies (IDS) program.

Canadian private sector products that were nominated ranged from those aimed at helping Nepalese agri-food processors (e.g. solar food dryer), to simple low cost technologies for subsistence farmers (e.g. corn sheller to remove corn kernels from the cob). In some cases, the students concluded that it would be more cost-effective for Nepalese farmers to purchase a technology from a nearby country such as China, but it is hoped that the student evaluations will help the participating Canadian companies evaluate new opportunities to tap into a consumer market of 1 billion subsistence farmers.
Nepalese products that were nominated by the Canadian students included different local tea products, natural textiles from bamboo, silk and pashmina wool, medicinal herbs and frozen momo – delicious dumplings which are the national food of Nepal but not well known abroad.

The Guelph student ambassadors critically evaluated their nominated agri-food products for potential benefits to Canada and Nepal, impacts on gender, society and the environment, assess regulatory and trade barriers, and they conducted business case studies analyses, which included quantifying production costs, transportation costs and competition from other nations such as China and India. The students were also required to provide the names and contact information of Canadian and Nepalese companies, to help bring attention to their products, and also to form an invitation list to two bilateral trade workshops being organized in Toronto and Kathmandu, to help stimulate trade.  The trade organizers include Dr. Ram Rana, CEO of Anamolbiu, a startup seed company in Nepal, which has partnered with the University of Guelph, with funding from the CIFSRF program.

Written reports from the Guelph student ambassadors will be posted and made publicly available at as well as at The students also created 200 Wikipedia entries and/or websites to bring global attention to these private sector ideas, which will be made available at the above websites. Another 130 videos or Powerpoint presentations were also created in which the students pitched the Canadian technologies. All of these resources will also be made available to the participating companies to help them sell their products abroad – which the students hope will benefit the world’s farmers –- a “win-win” situation for all. To encourage the students, they were entered into two competitions, with the winners to present their nominations at the bi-lateral trade workshop being organized in Kathmandu.

New CYAFTA competitions will be held at Guelph in the 2015-2016 academic year.  While CYAFTA aims for Canadian youth to empower others, its other objective is to empower these students – to demonstrate how technical knowledge, combined with passion, can affect positive change.
In the coming years, the CIFSRF supported project will evaluate the effectiveness of CYAFTA, the bi-lateral workshops and other activities, by conducting surveys with Canadian and Nepalese business and trade officials – to better understand which approaches are most effective at promoting trade for development.

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