Joseph and Tania Hofer farm together with their community at Greenwald Colony Farms just north of Beausejour and could relate very well with the community farming that takes place on the other side of the world in the country of Nepal.

The Hofers participated in the most recent Learning Tour with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) to have a better understanding of the work that's being done in Nepal through the collaborative efforts between CFGB and their partner organizations.

Joseph says they had an amazing time in Nepal travelling with the 13-person team from Canada through various parts of that country.  "They don't call it a Learning Tour for nothing," he says. "It's been adventurous!  It's been an incredible experience to see and feel and talk to these people, and to see their determination and how they take pride in what they do."

Hofer adds that he learned first-hand the need of the people and how the CFGB provides the education, technology and partnerships to help communities that are struggling to survive to thrive in their harsh terrain.

"We saw the need and where we can fit in and help them advance and help their farms prosper," he says. "I think there's a real need over there but there's also a determination; a willingness to do whatever needs to be done given the environment and the rough terrain that they're working in."

The group travelled with members of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Rural Institution for Community Development (RICOD), Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) Canada, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Canada visiting a variety of farming communities across Nepal.  Both Joseph and Tania remarked at how these villages were very much like their community at home in the support they saw in community, families helping families.

With over 30 million people living in the country, one wonders how that many people can survive in a relatively small country, close to 57,000 square miles.  It comes with the terrain as whole communities are built on the side of a mountain, by our standards.  In Nepal a mountain is deemed a mountain when it has snow on it. Nepal's hilly ranges attain an altitude running from 900 m to 1800 meters and extend in diverse directions acting as watersheds for various river basins.

Beginning in October the dry season extends about 5 months where the hills are green but so coated with dust that the trees and bush look parched and withered.  Irrigation is an important part of farming practices in this land.  Makeshift greenhouses made of bamboo and transparent plastic sheets protect plants from the extreme heat and drying winds, and their natural pest monkeys which forage and steal fruits and veggies. 

Diversifying their farming practices to include more crops like vegetables and fruits help to enhance the nutrition in the families.  CFGB help farmers to start their own goat herds, and mentor livestock education that benefits the communities as a whole.  All of this is done by hand as the rough terrain, farming on terraces or steppes makes for steep and hazardous conditions.  The team witnessed many working with a hoe, as well as ox and plow.

"My surprise was the landscape," shares Hofer. "The landscape really surprised me. It's all mountainous, it's all rough terrain. And these wonderful people are all farming basically right off the mountains.  That really surprised me at how difficult it is for them to do what they need to do to provide for their families."

"But also, their determination and willingness to learn new ways of farming, and also their kindness. These are very kind and welcoming people, and I was somewhat surprised at how open and welcoming they were to us as foreigners and strangers," he adds.

"I think it's a wonderful country to be working in for the Foodgrains Bank. It's been incredible to see and learn about these projects in Nepal," says Hofer. "We need to tell our people that there is a need. Programs cost money. We need sponsorships. We need people to step up and put some acres in. And whatever fundraisers we can do to help these people and these programs prosper and grow."

Photos below: A special thank you plaque and booklet was given to each learning tour participant, Tania and Joseph pose for a photo waiting for their traditional Nepali meal of curry chicken/goat, boiled spinach, chickpeas and rice, and also photos taken at different villages.