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APRIL 2018• COUNTRY LIFE IN BC


41 Foodgrains tour to Nepal makes a difference


Trip provides new perspective for Ag in the Classroom facilitator by MYRNA STARK LEADER


PENTICTON – A recent trip to Nepal by Agriculture in the Classroom Canada’s career program manager will increase the opportunity to


provide vegetable seed to 10 different communities and train about 1,000 residents to grow and harvest the plants. “They were not only able to


Country Ways


connect youth and agriculture to science, innovation and technology careers. In February, Penticton- based Becky Parker visited Nepal for two weeks with Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a Winnipeg-based partnership of 15 churches and church- based agencies working to end world hunger. Parker says the trip didn’t


focus on religion. Rather, it enabled educators and people who work with youth in Canada to learn more about food security. She was the only BC delegate and applied for the experience after seeing a Twitter posting calling for applicants. The trip reaffirmed for her that most Canadians are very fortunate to be food secure, defined as having access to enough food to maintain healthy and active lives. “It’s hard for someone who has access to so much food and so much variety to comprehend that you wouldn’t have access to food that allows you to be healthy,” she says.


The trip exposed her to


many projects that are trying to improve food security in Nepal.


Residents of a remote community an hour’s hike from the nearest road, itself rocky and more than an hour’s drive from where the group stayed, have improved nutrition thanks to a “super flour” made from ground corn, soybeans and rice. “These people don’t have access to a grocery store. They rely on what’s in the community,” Parker says. Kulpma Chepang learned


how to make the flour for her daughter Resma, who had gained just 1.5 kg in her first year of life.


“She was able to show us this vibrant healthy girl because she’d been able to feed her super flour,” Parker says. “It was incredible to see how a little bit of education about food nutrition had made such an impact on the community.” In the Terai region of southeast Nepal, Parker learned about a project to


increase their vegetable consumption within families and the community, which helped with nutrition, but they also produced surplus which they sold and had a direct impact on


their livelihoods,” Parker says. The experience raised her


awareness of her own privileged position. “I sometimes take for


granted that I can just go out and buy seed and that I have the knowledge how to grow things,” she says. Other projects focused on


food production and how to increase biodiversity. One community received funding from Global Affairs Canada, the University of Guelph and the Canadian Mennonite University to grow yams in bags above ground rather than deep underground. By simply putting the soil and plants in something similar to a grain bag, the new system lessened the digging required of the mostly female growers, used less land and decreased tuber breakage.


The same community was also able to access loan programs to purchase corn shellers. The sheller is a black metal tube with teeth inside that’s used to shell dry corn –


On her recent trip to Nepal, Becky Parker experienced the improvement introducing a simple piece of equipment can have to the mostly women who shell dry corn. Parker will share her experiences through many channels, including her role with Agriculture in the Classroom Canada. SUBMITTED PHOTO


work usually performed by women. The little $2 tool made all the difference. “It isn’t the easiest to do,”


Parker says of the work. “[But] they were able to significantly reduce their time to shell corn, their hand pain and also the number of women needed to do the work, which freed them to do other community work.” Now that she’s back, Parker is sharing her stories with family, friends, on social media and she’s written to her MP. She’d like to see the


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government continue to support Canada’s commitment to foreign aid and actually hit the target of 0.7% Gross National Income established in 1969; Canada currently commits 0.26%. She’ll also take her learnings to Ag in the Classroom teachers and students. “We do a game with grade 7s and 8s where I’m able to share what food insecurity is and why it matters,” says


Parker. She hopes exposure to global issues will encourage students to think more about careers in agriculture. “My experience is that they


do care. They see and hear all the time about the issues we are facing as a planet – climate change, environmental issues. We have a very caring generation of Canadians that are incited to take action or do something to make a difference,” she says.


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