Killarney area farmers, Dan and Hertha Penner, are on their way to Malawi, Africa today with a team from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  The Penners are participating in an international learning tour, where they'll be visiting communities in the country of Malawi to learn more about that country's food security and agriculture development programs through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Both Dan and Hertha have been heavily involved in their local Killarney Foodgrains Grow Project over the past number of years but have never participated in a learning tour. 

"These Foodgrains Bank learning tours connect the 'statistic' with real life," shares Hertha Penner. "We often see poverty or those less fortunate in numbers. The learning tour is to connect those two, to connect the communities here that support these programs with the communities that receive them, to increase awareness here and get people excited about projects that are here on a local level that support the Foodgrains Bank."

Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa with a population of approximately 21 million people.

The Penners will be travelling to 4-5 projects during their stay in Malawi, mostly working within the Ag industry in the southern end of the country with local organizations, such as the Presbyterian World Service and Development that is supporting Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD).

This past spring southern Malawi was severely hit by cyclone Freddy resulting in over 1,200 people dying, displacing close to 600,000 households and severe destruction of housing, assets and food and crop losses. The Mulanje District was one of the worst affected areas. This is the third major cyclone hitting southern Malawi in the last five years.  

This same organization partners with the Foodgrains Bank to support an agriculture and livelihood project in Balaka District where the people face perpetual food insecurity due to declining crop productivity and limited income for food. Reduced food production is exacerbated by prolonged dry spells and declining soil fertility. As well, women’s limited power in decision making, ownership and control over productive assets decreases food production as women are the main farmers and require access to these resources to be successful.

Dan and Hertha are grain farmers and have a laying hen operation, as well as a hog operation east of Killarney. So, needless to say, the Penners are well-versed in diversity when it comes to Manitoba farming.  The Penners both say they are eager to learn other farming practices on the other side of the world.

"The projects we are involved in will deal with different farming techniques, soil conservation and water conservation," explains Hertha Penner. "Some of the programs that we will be seeing will be in an area that was hit severely by a tropical storm."

In late January 2022, southern Malawi was severely hit by tropical storm Ana which displaced close to two hundred thousand households and led to severe food and crop losses. Due to very poor harvests, people are still experiencing high levels of food insecurity (IPC3) during this current lean season, lasting until the end of April. This project will allow participants to purchase immediate food supplies from local markets.

The Penners will be touring and learning about the Canadian Foodgrains projects on the southern end of Malawi for approximately two weeks.  

Please listen to more with Hertha Penner below!

To read more on the projects that Dan and Hertha Penner are visiting click HERE!

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