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A publication of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation


More Than Emergency Aid The issue of food security has reached a new level of severity in the Horn of Africa. Up to 12 million people require emergency aid in what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. A number of factors have contributed to the severity of the situation. The food crisis has been worsened by high food prices, large scale death of livestock, and instability in the southern regions of Somalia. Aid agencies have been providing humanitarian and emergency assistance to the affected regions. However, emergency relief alone is not the solution. As mentioned by the UN emergency relief must be accompanied by longer term efforts to boost food security in the region. The end goal should be supporting sustainable development and livelihoods, not entrenching cycles of dependency. In the past, SCERDO’s work in Somalia has been aimed at sustainable development and empowerment through education. Currently, SCERDO is focusing on emergency relief efforts. Nevertheless, the long term vision stays the same, and that is empowerment through education and promoting sustainable development. International projects aimed at sustainable development include, a water borehole that was approved by CIDA earlier this year and is being built in Ceegaag, Somalia. Such an initiative not only meets the immediate needs of the people, but also leads to long term growth and development. Past projects have included educational centres in Burao, Ceegaag and Borama. Education on the issue of food security and water scarcity is essential. In addition to providing training on health and technical skills, it is through these centres these important issues are being discussed. SCERDO aims to continue to implement such projects with the hopes of meeting these long term goals for Somalia’s development.


– Somali Canadian Education & Rural Development Organization (SCERDO) Bashir meeting community leaders

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Tackling Farmer Suicide in Rural India | MSSO Partners on the Road to Food Security | Rainbow for the Future

Organic Garden Plants Hope in South Africa | Keiskamma Water Security in an Ever-Changing World | CAWST

Sowing Hope in Ethiopia | Canadian Humanitarian Annual General Meeting with Wade Davis | ACGC

Cover photo (above) courtesy of Rainbow for the Future

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Tackling Farmer Suicide in Rural India “There was no rain and no employment opportunity. We had no idea if, and when, we would find our next meal.” “In such dire straits, suicide seemed to be the only option for a farmer.” “One day things reached to such a point that I thought it was better to end this life; throw my both children into the river, and then jump myself into it.” – Words from village farmers, translated from Marathi. Here is Nileema Mishra’s Story…

Nileema knew that confident and intelligent women help create confident families, and confident families create a confident village.

At the tender age of thirteen, this young girl had been able to see in India, the land of her birth, much suffering caused by superstition, poverty, exploitation, and illiteracy. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of self-sufficient, prosperous villages, Nileema took a bold vow for a woman. She vowed never to marry, and to instead devote her life to betterment of the lives of poor villagers. Nileema went on to complete post-graduate studies in clinical psychology, working with reformist Dr. Kalbag for eight years on his concept of rural development through education. There Nileema realized that the problems of villages are varied. Neither unionization nor a confrontational movement would help matters. The need was a solution based constructive work. She decided on a simple, but profound, method: get to know village problems, then find solutions. For this purpose she founded BNGVN (Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan) Rural Science Centre, attracting a team of energetic dedicated associates, who shared faith in her vision. Some village women approached Nileema. Although some of the women were illiterate, Nileema knew they were intelligent, and that confident and intelligent women help create confident families, and confident families create a confident village. Nileema suggested the women form a small-savings group for collective action, but they seemed reluctant. It was shocking to discover that such groups, run by private companies, were a partial cause of their dire situation, having defrauded them for thousands of rupees under the guise of micro-finance.

With the help of the State Bank of India, Nileema dispelled their doubts, and worked with them to win their trust. The women gradually agreed to form the first self-help group. From the raw ingredients they bought, 14 women began preparing 33 different foods for sale. They then branched into making and selling their needlework including embroidery & quilts. This prompted more women to join them, evolving into a Businesswomen’s Association, acquiring business, marketing and computer skills. Nileema helped these resourceful women revolutionize not only the economy of their villages, but also transform village quality of life. Today, the village of Bahadarpur is an ideal role model for nation building, creating a self-sufficient economy free from corruption. Continuing to flourish, this project is aptly named ‘The Dawn of Hope.’ One of the projects supported by Calgary-based NGO MSSO (Maharashtra Seva Samiti Organization) working mainly, but not exclusively, in India. Written by Eilish Hiebert, from Dr. J Wani’s Research.

Partners on the Road to Food Security Gebreyes has completed more than 40 small scale irrigation projects that bring water to the dry land.

Every day, 500g of boiled wheat is divided up between two adults, four children, a calf, a goat and a donkey in the Farah household. This handout is the only food they have. The rains have failed for the past two seasons. The number of people in Ethiopia who will need food assistance this year has risen to close to 10 million, an increase of several hundred thousand from estimates released just two months ago by United Nations relief agencies and the Horn of Africa nation’s Governments. Every year the numbers grow and the solutions seem more and more elusive. But there is a garden growing in the dusty, dry deserts of the Afar Region of Ethiopia. These fields and gardens might very well hold the key to a food secure future for thousands who now suffer from ever more frequent drought. Irrigation is an age old technology but unfortunately small scale irrigation schemes have been given little attention by the various levels of government in Ethiopia. Fortunately, that is changed forever thanks the work of Gebreyes Haile, and his Ethiopian NGO, Support for Sustainable Development.


The Westlock agricultural community has been supporting the Irrigation Based Development work of Gebreyes for nearly 20 years through the Westlock Growing Project. In response to severe drought conditions and terrible famine in Ethiopia in 1984, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank was established. Locally, Leo Seguin, decided to organize farmers to help with grain drives and then to establish the Westlock Growing Project. For 17 years area farmers and agribusiness have donated time, land, seed, machinery and expertise to plant and harvest grain crops. The funds generated from the sale of the crop are matched, multiplied and channelled through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to the water diversion projects in the Afar deserts in Ethiopia. Gebreyes has completed more than 40 small scale irrigation projects that bring water to the dry land where traditional pastoralists are taught to farm the land. In less than 10 years Gebreyes and SSD have transformed nomadic clans who have been following the tails of their animals for thousands of years into settled communities which produce food for themselves and beyond. The key is Food for Work. Canadian grain is used to pay the beneficiaries to build the infrastructure to bring water to the fields with their own hands and labour, under the supervision of SSD. The results of this partnership between Alberta farmers and the new farmers in the Afar are nothing short of miraculous. Tens of thousands are no longer at the mercy of water and food shortages and the ravages of climate change. Rainbow for the Future is one link in the chain that connects us to those who need a hand up to take charge of their future.

Water Security in an Ever-Changing World “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin From a global perspective, it might surprise you to hear that there is more than enough fresh water for everyone. Yet those living in the Horn of Africa are suffering from water stress and scarcity as we speak. Why is this? Essentially, the problem rests in an unequal distribution of water around the world to meet everyone’s needs at particular times and places. Some regions have an abundance of water and ample rainfall, while others struggle through continuous droughts. Global warming and climate change also contributes complexity to the availability of water and many of the world’s most water stressed areas will receive even less water in future, as water flows will become less predictable and more subject to extreme events. According to Population Action International, more than 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will face water stress or water scarcity conditions by 2025. Of these countries, 40 are located in West Asia, North Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa. In parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, these conditions are unfolding and have been for a long time coming, as development agencies watched water supplies dwindle, no longer adequate to satisfy all human or ecosystem requirements. Therein lies the challenge - how to best plan for and mitigate droughts’ impact in the developing world. CAWST, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, a Calgary-based international organization believes the best hope in our ever-changing world is to develop the local human skills and knowledge for people to manage their own water with household solutions. CAWST focuses training on simple, affordable technologies that are within the means of poor communities to implement, operate and maintain. Through the mobilization of independent action and by building human capacity, populations are empowered to plan ahead to secure and implement their own safe water systems, without relying large scale, blanket solutions or reactive measures that are not always applicable to individuals and their communities.

Connect Africa, a local NGO in Uganda supported by CAWST since 2007 is an excellent example of this mobilization in action. This month, Connect Africa urgently opened Kibwezi CARC (Connect Africa Resource Center), located in one of the driest parts of Kenya. Trevor Tychon, project leader, states, “CARC introduced locally appropriate technology solutions to over 160 community members and government leaders, got the first 20 Biosand [drinking water treatment] Filters installed, and as well made Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks bricks for a 15,000 liter rainwater tank which will be completed before the rains are due to come in November.” The need to implement training was so desperate in the area because “as the last of the streams and ponds dry up, folks are now competing for the water with the animals, and the water borne sickness rate is skyrocketing.”

The best hope is to develop the local human skills and knowledge for people to manage their own water

Trevor says that the organization plans to establish a training center for the community to be finished by December to “train locals how to maximize the water they do have and to introduce low-cost drip irrigation into that area so they can grow enough to supplement their diet and stay alive in these tough times.” CAWST, a Calgary-based NGO, continues to work alongside organizations in the drought-prone areas of the world. We have impacted 4.6 million people in 69 countries since 2001 through our training, education materials and technical support which are directly passed on to organizations in the developing world, serving those without access to clean water and basic sanitation. To learn more, visit

Trevor Tychon in Uganda with local community members and a rainwater tank.

Organic Garden Plants Hope in Rural South Africa Albertans are not alone in seeing an upsurge in community gardening. In the remote Eastern Cape region of South Africa, more villagers are growing their own food thanks to the Keiskamma Organic Garden project, an initiative of Keiskamma Trust. Organic vegetables, herbs and fruit are providing both nutrition and income in an area battling hunger and 90-plus per cent poverty as well as HIV/AIDS. There’s a passionate duo behind the project: local gardener Princess Xhaka and transplanted Parisian Frank Danais. Princess began working in Keiskamma Trust’s gardens a decade ago; since 2005, Frank has turned his own garden into an organic wonder. Now the two work in tandem, with financial support from the Edmonton-based Keiskamma Canada Foundation, seeking better ways to grow. Besides freely sharing what they learn through guided visits and workshops, they help start or improve gardens in a region where only a minority of the 3,000 inhabitants have gardened in recent years. Not far from Frank’s model garden is a much larger community garden where families tend maize, beans, spinach, potatoes, beetroot, and other vegetables. In the past, gardeners have used inorganic fertilizers and pesticides with little understanding of environmental impacts. As organic techniques take hold, the community garden is yielding more and better vegetables. Besides providing the nutrition so essential to health (including the fight against HIV/AIDS), this garden and others are demonstrating the overwhelming difference that is possible by gardening in tune with nature.

Keiskamma Trust encourages all area families to integrate organic gardening and other sustainable practices by demonstrating how they save time and money. For example, the trust is introducing rocket stoves, which use only a quarter the usual amount of wood, freeing time previously spent gathering wood for growing vegetables and planting trees. Seedlings are grown in a nursery that is also experimenting with bamboo as a possible income source. The gardening team recently added Hamilton Makhubalo (pictured above right), who is learning organic techniques to share with neighbours. Current needs include a greenhouse and a resource centre, to plant both seeds and ideas. Keiskamma Canada Foundation (keiskammacanada. com) aims to foster hope in the face of HIV/AIDS, focusing initially on the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. Keiskamma Trust ( combines health, art, music and education initiatives in an integrated fight against poverty and HIV/AIDS in rural South African. Its managing director, Annette Woudstra, hails from Edmonton.

Organic vegetables, herbs and fruit are providing both nutrition and income in an area battling hunger and 90-plus per cent poverty.


Sowing Hope in Ethiopia For the past year this group of women have been saving a small amount of money each day in anticipation of starting their own garden

Canadian Humanitarian is an organization that has seen education break the cycle of poverty. Typically when we think of education in an international development context we think of children with school uniforms, books in hand, walking to school. This summer we want you to picture 20 women in head scarves, seeds in hand, walking through a field they are planting as giant vegetable garden. In June 2010 volunteers from Canada teamed up with local women in the rural town of Gindo in Ethiopia to build a fence around 5,000 sq meter of land that has been donated from the local government. For the past year this group of women have been saving a small amount of money each day in anticipation of starting their own garden. That time has arrived. The women are part of a program run by Canadian Humanitarian and it project partner Bright for Every Kid Association (BEKA). Canadian Humanitarian’s program has helped their children enrol in school, obtain school supplies and sanitation materials and improve their nutrition. BEKA saw the potential of expanding the scope of the project from helping the children to teaching their guardians how to grow a vegetable garden. BEKA encouraged the women to start saving and then approached the government and Canadian Humanitarian to get the land and some needed supplies. All parties saw the potential of investing in supporting these women and the garden project was born.

In the summer of 2011, 13 volunteers from Canada will again team up with the women to begin the planting of their garden. BEKA is helping to provide some local expertise to help the women as they grow their garden. The produce from the garden will be used to support the BEKA program in many ways. Firstly the produce will be used by the program to help feed the children 1 hot meal per day. Secondly, the excess will be used in the households of the participating families and sold at market enabling the women to increase their income. Truly education is not only done in a class room.

ACGC is thrilled to announce that Wade Davis will be delivering the keynote address entitled `Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.’

AGM Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 6:00 – 10:30 pm Reception 6:00 – 7:30 pm Speakers commence 7:30 pm Eckhardt-Gramatte Hall University of Calgary 2500 University Drive N.W. Calgary, Alberta

Wade Davis is the National Geographic Society Explorerin-Residence, named by the National Geographic Society as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.”

their amazing commitment to international development during a wine and cheese reception.The program will also include speakers who will share their uniquely Albertan perspectives on development, current realities, and ways to incorporate local knowledge to make us all better global citizens.

Within the framework of international development and cooperation, Dr. Davis will be exploring the importance of incorporating indigenous knowledge and traditional wisdom into improving development practices and the subsequent results. Within current contexts, Dr. Davis will also touch on the interconnectedness of indigenous rights, environmental care, human rights, international development and other aspects of social justice.

There will be a reception held from 6:00PM until 7:30PM, where representatives from Alberta-based international development non-governmental organizations will be present to meet and discuss their work with members of the general public. This reception will be a fantastic opportunity to become better acquainted with the Albertan international development sector, network with specialists working directly in the field, and find ways to become more involved in this tremendous work.

In addition to the keynote address, the Friday evening program will celebrate the international development sector in Alberta, by showcasing many of ACGC’s member organizations and

ACGC Connect is published by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation with the financial assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The views expressed by the publication are not necessarily those of ACGC or its member groups. ACGC is a coalition of NGOs working in Alberta and committed to advocating harmonious relations among nations and to promoting equitable community development within nations which is people-centred, democratic, just, sustainable, inclusive and respectful of indigenous cultures. ACGC can be contacted at: Suite 205, 10816A - 82 Avenue Edmonton, AB T6E 2B3 Tel: 780.988.0200 | Fax: 780.988.0211 Email: Visit our website at: Printed on Recycled Paper by Union Labour Canadian Publication Agreement #42038015

E-NEWSLETTER If you would prefer to receive an electronic copy of the newsletter in the future instead of a printed copy, please contact or 780.988.0200. Thank you. Canadian International Development Agency


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ACGC Current Membership AUGUST 2011 Action International Ministries • Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG) • Altamas for Peace and Development Association • Association of Canadian Peacemakers International • Awaso Canadian Academy Foundation • Bridges of Hope International Network of Development Agencies • Canada World Youth • Canadian Association for Participatory Development • Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace • Canadian Crossroads International (CCI) • Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) • Canadian Humanitarian • Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan • Caro-Canadians Reaching Out to the World’s Children Foundation • CAUSE Canada • CEIBA Association • Centre for Affordable Water Sanitation and Technology (CAWST) • Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research (CGCER) • Change for Children Association • CHF • Covenant International Ministry • CUSO-VSO • Engineers Without Borders - Canada • Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning • Ghost River Rediscovery • Global Centre for Outreach Foundation • Global Environmental and Outdoor Education Council (GEOEC) • Helping Youth Through Educational Scholarships (HYTES) • HIV Edmonton • Innovative Canadians for Change (ICChange) • John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights • Keiskamma Canada Foundation • L’Institut IndoCanadien Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute • Lifeline Malawi Association • Light Up the World Foundation • Maharashtra Seva Samiti Organization (MSSO) • Marda Loop Justice Film Festival • Mennonite Central Committee- Alberta • Micah Centre at Kings University College • Optometry Giving Sight • Project Shelter Wakadogoo • Racecourse Community School Fundraising Initiative • Rainbow for the Future • Rainbow of Hope for Children • RESULTS Canada • Sahakarini Inter-World Education and Development Association • Samaritan’s Purse Canada • Somali-Canadian Education & Rural Development Organization (SCERDO) • Sombrilla Refugee Support Society • Stop TB Canada • The Canadian Moravian Mission Society • The Human Development Foundation • The Leprosy Mission Canada • The Tamaraneh Society for Community Development and Support • Tools for Schools Africa Foundation (TFS-A Fdn.) • Trickster Theatre • True Vision Ghana • UEnd Foundation (UEnd: Poverty) • Unisphere Global Resource Centre • United Nations Association in Canada - Edmonton Branch • Women’s Empowerment International Foundation • World Fit For Children - Alberta Chapter • World University Service of Canada (WUSC) • World Vision

ACGC Connect Autumn 2011  
ACGC Connect Autumn 2011  

The ACGC Connect is a quarterly newsletter published by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation. The Spring 2012 issue examines issues of...