Friday, 31 August 2018 05:01

Harvest from Swift Current area projects to benefit Canadian Foodgrains Bank

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Volunteers stand with a Canadians Foodgrains Bank banner at the Lone Tree community project, Aug. 23. Volunteers stand with a Canadians Foodgrains Bank banner at the Lone Tree community project, Aug. 23. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

Crops have been harvested at two community growing projects in the Swift Current area in support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The Grasslands Growing Project has been taking place in the Swift Current area for over a decade.
It consists of the Lone Tree community project just northeast of Swift Current and the Stewart Valley community project.
Volunteers helped to harvest a canola crop on 157 acres of land at the Lone Tree community project Aug. 23 while the 135 acre durum crop at the Stewart Valley project was harvested the following day.
The yield at the Lone Tree project was about 15 bushels per acre while the Stewart Valley project produced a crop of 32 bushels per acre.
This year's harvest at both sites happened even earlier than last year, when it took place during the first part of September. As was the case last year, the dry conditions during the growing season was a real challenge and project committee member Troy LaForge felt thankful for this year's outcome.
“It could have been a lot worse, put it that way,” he said. “It's just terrible, terrible dry and you can only go so far with so little water.”
The durum crop was trucked to a grain elevator and sold on the day of the harvest, but the canola was binned. A donation will be made to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank once the income from this year's harvest has been finalized.
Last year's harvest from the two projects resulted in a total donation of almost $74,000 to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“It's down a little bit from where we've been,” he said. “We've had some higher commodity prices the last number of years and commodity prices are down a bit now. It's still within the long-term average of what we've been donating, kind of $70,000 to $100,000 a year. So I think it's pretty good average numbers.”
There was again good participation from the community with both projects this year. Landowners John Wright (Lone Tree) and Bruce Pate (Stewart Valley) have been supporting this growing project for over 10 years, while other producers and various agricultural businesses have helped with donation of inputs, equipment and labour.
“We're always happy with the support we get from the community and local producers, and we're always looking forward to another year,” LaForge said.
Rick Block, the Saskatchewan regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, attended both harvest days. This was his first opportunity since he was appointed to the position in 2016 to be present during the harvesting of the crops for the Grasslands Growing Project. There are 26 growing projects in Saskatchewan this year that will make a significant contribution to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
Donations to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank can be the result of monetary support from individuals and fundraising efforts in communities, or otherwise through growing projects.
“It is specifically the growing projects where people are working together in a very concerted way,” he said. “So you have land owners, you have farmers, farm families, local businesses, all contributing their efforts and their time to grow this crop and to pull the crop off. Those efforts really are multiplied in the sense of what comes off say a quarter section of land. That’s a lot of soup and pie sales for people to organize. So it does bring in a lot of dollars.”
Last year the total amount donated from Saskatchewan to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank was about $2.5 million, of which about $1 million came from 26 growing projects.
A funding agreement between the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Canadian government means financial contributions are matched at a four-to-one level by the federal government. Block noted that food security and peace are closely linked.
“So when we think of larger global issues, it really is in Canada’s interest to ensure that it meets its goals in relation to its official development assistance,” he said. “So its grant with the Foodgrains Bank is a piece to those larger goals around its official development assistance.”
About two-thirds of the funds raised by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank will be spend on providing emergency food assistance in various parts of the world, for example to Syrian refugees who might be in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, or to victims of conflicts in places such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Funds are also used to improve long-term food security in communities through projects to train small-scale farmers in conservation agriculture.
“This is having significant positive impacts where people are able to grow more and better food and often help alleviate that seasonal hunger that comes from not being able to produce enough food for your family for the year,” he said. “A lot of that training is being done through partner organizations of the Foodgrains Bank.”
The conservation agriculture program is implemented in a number of African countries, as well as in some Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, especially in places that experience seasonal rainfall patterns and where rainfall could be sporadic or erratic.
“Many smallholder farmers see the results of adopting a conservation agriculture principle, which maintains a mulch cover over the soil, conserves moisture, helps to tighten the nutrient cycling, and they begin to learn how to rotate crops,” he said. “Part of that training is also integrated pest and disease management and so it really has an impact on a household economic level that often has impacts that we don’t necessarily think about, for example families that now with those savings are able to access health care.”
A key challenge for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank internationally is the demands between funding longer term development initiatives and providing emergency food relief.
“We would love to see more of our annual budget going towards the long-term development and upstream work,” he said. “However, conflict in the world is not subsiding, in fact perhaps we would even say it’s increasing, and that increases the need of delivering emergency food assistance.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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