Becky Parker works with a local woman using a corn husker in Majhthana village, a $2 piece of equipment that was offered to the community, making it quicker and easier to get the kernels off the cob. Photo courtesy Becky Parker

Contrasting Canadian agriculture with Nepal

Penticton woman returns from NGO-sponsored trip to Nepal

Becky Parker recently spent a couple of weeks in Nepal, learning about hunger and development issues from the people living it.

“Nepal has quite a big food security issue. About 40 per cent of the children under the age of five experience stunting because of malnutrition,” said Parker. “As well, in 2015, Nepal had the earthquake that affected about eight million people. That had an effect on food security as well.”

Related: Penticton students organize fundraiser for ravaged Nepal

Parker was part of an international food security learning tour for educators organized by Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a partnership of 15 church and church agencies working together to end global hunger.

A farewell ceremony and blessing when departing Bhadaure. Photo courtesy Becky Parker

“I work for an organization called Agriculture in the Classroom,” said Parker. “We focus on increasing food literacy with young people as well as increasing knowledge and appreciation of how food is produced here in Canada.”

The goal of the trip, she explained, was to see examples of the projects the Foodgrains Bank runs in the Nepalese communities along with increasing the knowledge around food security and hunger issues with educators.

Parker said she hadn’t had a chance to immerse herself in a developing country before.

“Agriculture in Canada is extremely advanced, technologically. We have a lot of tools and techniques that allow us to produce with high yields and also allow us to produce really safe food,” she said, juxtaposing Canada with a country where most of the population is employed in the agricultural sector.

“They have, at most, a couple of acres of land. And how difficult it was for them to produce food on hillsides,” said Parker. “I come home and I look at the hills around Penticton; the people in Nepal were growing food on hills and mountainsides that were steeper than that. They have all just been terraced.”

The Foodgrains Bank runs projects in a wide variety of areas. They have funding and they partner with local organizations. And the funding is provided to that local organization to go to a project.

One of the projects the group visited is providing nutrition support to mothers of young children. The women are learning about the importance of weight monitoring, balanced diets and how to incorporate locally available, nutrient rich foods into their children’s diets.

“The examples we saw, the projects were run by local partners,” said Parker. “So they knew the people and it was really designed to maximize local knowledge and be looking for ways to support them and enhance the human capital as well as the resources they have.”

Other projects visited are helping to train local communities in vegetable gardening, implement village savings and loans programs and develop new agricultural technologies.

“Some of the projects ran for a year, some for two or three years, but the goal was really around that knowledge building as well as giving them some tools to use, whether that was actual physical tools or giving techniques to produce food in a different or more sustainable way.” said Parker.

“In terms of my work with young people, I think I really took away the message that we are a global world and there are people on this planet who are not as fortunate as us. There are ways we can support those groups.”

Exposing educators directly to the issues and having them interact with the Nepalese farmers was the key part of the trip, according to Roberta Gramlich, who co-ordinates youth engagement at the Foodgrains Bank.

“These are some of the people who are most connected to Canadian youth. By allowing them to learn about global hunger, they can do better informing the young people with whom they work,” said Gramlich.

Together with matching support from the government of Canada, the Foodgrains Bank has provided over $600 million of food assistance to people who are hungry since 1983.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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