Canadian Foodgrains Bank sets record

  • April 24, 2009
{mosimage}A Canadian ecumenical agency working with subsistence farmers who face drought and starvation in rural Tanzania is enjoying record-breaking support, despite the recession.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank raised $12.4 million in cash and crops in 2008-2009, $4 million more than its previous record.

“It was quite a remarkable year,” said Foodgrains executive director Jim Cornelius.

“We can see this as a positive sign of solidarity by Canadians,” said Jasmine Fortin, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace director of advancement. Development and Peace contributes to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and sits on its board of directors.

Cornelius said he was pleased but not necessarily surprised by the jump in donations.

“People are still basically concerned with the needs of others,” he said.

Canadians suffering in the recession know that it’s even worse for poor farmers in places like Tanzania, he said.

There are now 15 member agencies represented on the Foodgrains board, representing 32 Christian denominations — virtually every national church except the Orthodox. Still mainly rural based, Foodgrains draws about 40 per cent of its support from urban Canadians.

The record year for contributions was bolstered by excellent crop yields on the Prairies and high commodity prices for grains.

The kinds of programs Foodgrains runs in Tanzania are aimed at preventing farmers from selling off productive equipment or going to loan sharks for money to feed their families when crops fail, said Cornelius.

Because Foodgrains doesn’t raise money in response to specific emergencies it has the chance to start running programs before the images of starving children hit television screens.

“By the time it hits the news the situation has become extreme,” said Cornelius. “It’s so important to be there ahead of the curve.”

Ahead of the curve means helping people before they start selling farm tools and land or borrowing money they can’t pay back. Their aim is to “stop this cycle of impoverishment.”

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