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Maritime farmers see difference they’re making in Rwanda

Some Maritimers who just concluded a 10-day tour in Rwanda say they’ve seen firsthand how the goodwill of Canadian farmers is helping to feed thousands of people in that country and improve their hygiene.

The visitors are guests of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a registered charity that currently targeting villages prone to drought and where people are returning to their homes after being displaced by war and the 1994 genocide.

Allison Finnamore, a Moncton-based freelance journalist, says one project that impressed her most was the effort to teach mothers how to grow food in their own backyards.

"’Kitchen garden’, is what they call them," she said in a Skype interview from Kigali.

"So just right out in their yard, they’re growing spinach and onions and garlic ... carrots was another big one that we saw."

7 farmers in group
Finnamore travelled with seven farmers who support the cause through proceeds from the sales of their crops.

Allison Finnamore was impressed with efforts in Rwanda to teach mothers how to grow food in their own backyards.

She says they were keen to see how their money’s being used.

"One farmer ... he got right down into the cornfield and was digging down to see how deep the moisture went in the soil."

One collective of Nova Scotia farmers contributed approximately $40,000 from their latest corn harvest, said Ian MacHattie, who was also on the trip.

’Here it’s the difference between whether a family lives or not.’
- Ian MacHattie, regional co-ordinator Canadian Foodgrains
​MacHattie, a grain elevator operator in Truro, also serves as a regional co-ordinator for Canadian Foodgrains.

"Here I had an opportunity to see how the money gets spent," he said.

"And here it’s the difference between whether a family lives or not."

Hygiene education

Finnamore and MacHattie say they’re also impressed by the effort to teach hygiene.

Handwashing stations have had a impact on preventing children from getting worms and parasites after being taught how to wash their hands.

They say there’s a big impact from setting up hand-washing stations and teaching villagers the importance of using them.

MacHattie says mothers let him know that their children aren’t getting sick like they used to.

"[Their] kids don’t have worms or parasites anymore, because they’ve learned how to wash their hands."

Expenses for the trip were covered by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Founded in 1970s
The organization got its start in the the Prairies in the 1970s when Mennnonite farmers shipped 1,400 tonnes of grain to hungry people in India, according to documents provided by the organization.

It’s been a continuous presence in Ethiopia since the 1980s famine.

"We’ve grown significantly," said Amanda Thorsteinsson, a communications co-ordinator, in an email.

"Donations ... are matched on a 4:1 basis by the Canadian government, up to $25 million a year."

Thorsteinsson says the group no longer ships grain but instead, supplies tools, training and seed and the funding to purchase emergency food, as locally as possible.


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