By Lori Bamber
The world’s population is expected to reach 8.3 billion to 10.9 billion by 2050, even as food production is increasingly affected by severe droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. Feeding the planet’s growing population will require innovative cross-sector collaboration – and organizations, scientists and farmers in Quebec are rising to the challenge.
“We have to make sure that we’re producing more food in a way that minimizes the environmental footprint,” says Laurie Goodwin, government affairs manager, at Syngenta Canada Inc.
While agriculture is often viewed as being in competition with the natural world, it doesn’t have to be that way, she stresses. “Biodiversity programs benefit rural communities, as well as support wildlife.”
One of Syngenta’s efforts in this realm is its support of the Fondation de la faune du Québec program “Mise en valeur de la biodiversité en milieu agricole,” which translates loosely as “development of biodiversity in agricultural areas.”
“Quebec is well known for its efforts in the area of environmental sustainability,” says Goodwin. “Farmers are keenly aware of biodiversity and the impact that farming operations can have on the environment.”
One of the program’s initiatives is in collaboration with the agri-environmental advisory club Datasol and local farmers to create a wetland in the ruisseau Norton, a small stream located in the Montérégie region of the province.
The wetland has been designed to filter local farm water before it flows into the nearby stream and to reduce the impact of flooding on the farm. Native shrubs and trees were also planted nearby to help support wildlife, including pollinators, that are essential to robust crop yields.
The Fondation de la faune du Québec (which roughly translates as the Quebec Wildlife Foundation) receives government funding from the sales of hunting, fishing and trapping licences, along with donations from Quebec citizens and funding from other organizations. “Our role is to support community wildlife organizations through funding,” says Sébastien Rioux, one of the Fondation’s coordonnateur de projets. “We have a $6.1-million annual budget that funds around 700 projects a year.”
The Fondation’s partnership with Syngenta began in 2005 with a series of 10 successful pilot projects throughout the province that led to the launch of a permanent program.
“Since 2010, which corresponds roughly to the launch of our permanent program, we have funded 77 wildlife projects in agricultural settings,” says Rioux. In addition to the planting of thousands of trees and shrubs beneficial to birds and pollinating insects, 15 wetlands have been created or improved to support waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles; 20 fish habitats adjacent to farming were improved, and more than 10 hectares of pollinator-friendly landscapes were established.
In addition to enhancing biodiversity and protecting wildlife, the program has led to greater cross-sector collaboration and awareness of biodiversity among the province’s farmers.
“Many wetlands have been created by organizations on land provided by farmers,” says Rioux. “It is very rewarding to see biologists working side by side with agronomists to propose initiatives that fit the agricultural and economical realities of farmers.”
Syngenta views its role in the program as an important part of a much larger vision, says Goodwin. “Fondation de la faune incorporates science into everything they do – they want to be able to assess, measure and demonstrate that the projects are having a tangible impact on wildlife, which is key.”
One of the global commitments of the company’s Good Growth Plan initiative is to enhance biodiversity on five million hectares of farmland, she explains. “This project with Fondation is just one of the ways we are working toward this commitment. We have these large, overarching goals – but they’re achieved in partnership and collaboration with others, one farm at a time.”