Food Crisis Underscores Need for Kernels of Hope

Post a Comment » Written on May 15th, 2008     
Filed under: News
NORQUAY, SK (May 15, 2008) – The worst global food crisis in at least a generation heightens the need for the fourth annual Kernels of Hope project, says organizer Ray Baloun.

The innovative project operated on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada (ECCC) has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief and development funds for sustainable agriculture in Africa.

Farmers donate their time to grow crops on a portion of their land set aside to be “purchased” by “virtual farmer” donors who pay the costs of rent, seed, chemicals, insurance, and custom work. When the crop is sold, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) matches the grain sales revenue on a four-to-one ratio to reach the final donation amount. That money is then distributed to the intended recipients through the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) and World Relief Canada (WRC).

With matching funds from the Canadian International Development Agency, the farmers have raised more than $530,000 since 2005, Baloun says. The money has helped refugees from Liberia’s civil war re-establish their farms.

“I know we can’t fix everything with Kernels, but after meeting many of the people in Africa that the CFGB has been helping feed and helping provide better methods of crop production, I know now more than ever that we are making an incredible change for the better in peoples lives,” Baloun says.

The project has expanded each year, raising a record $270,000 in 2007. That was a dramatic increase from the $69,000 raised in 2005.

Like the rest of the world, however, the project also must deal with substantially rising costs. For example, the price for a ton of phosphate fertilizer has tripled to around $1,400 over the last year, Baloun says.

Still, Baloun says he hopes to keep the cost of an acre at $200. As in past years, virtual farmers can fund a partial acre or multiple acres.

To help offset the expense, some farmers already are providing some of the land rent-free and bearing the cost of inputs. Baloun says he may have to dip into reserve funds to help fund the project. Administrative costs also are kept low – Baloun donates his time.

Kernels for Hope will tackle a new project this year, shifting its focus to the first year of a three-year effort in South Sudan managed by WRC partner Tearfund, Baloun says. The project will benefit 41,000 people and provide feeding programs, training and inputs to local farmers and fishermen, and education for local health care workers.

Kernels for Hope farmers include several from Evangelical Covenant churches:
•    Hans Andersen, who attends Rosebud Covenant Church in Rosebud, Alberta, was a virtual farmer last year, but will donate grain from his field this year
•    Owen Westerlund and his father, Bruce, will plant 20 acres of Harvest wheat – they attended Hyas Covenant Church until it closed and now attend Norquay Covenant Church
•    Slavek and Margaret Dasiuk, who attend College Park Covenant Church in Saskatoon, are returning for their second year and will farm 40 acres

Several non-Covenanters who previously donated money as virtual farmers also are planting crops, Baloun says.

People desiring to become virtual farmers should make pledges by June 30 and make payments by July 31, Baloun says. Checks should be made payable to ECCC and mailed to Box 34025 RPO, Fort Richmond, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 5T5.  Donors also can contribute online by credit card at Canada Covenant Church.

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