Thirteen Canadians, including four Manitobans, are in the final leg of a more than two week long Canadian Foodgrains Bank learning tour in Nepal. Golden West Reporter Betty Sawatzky, from Killarney, is part of the group, and has been speaking with the participants along the way.

After visiting an MCC led project in the Dhusel and Ikudol areas, and before departing for an Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ARDA) Canada led project in the Dhading region, Sawatzky asked for reflections, so far, from the group.

Joseph and Tania Hofer farm near Winnipeg, and he shared it's the people they've met that have made the most lasting impression to this point.

"It's the people, it's coming to another world, to another place and meeting people that are different than us, living in a different, almost culture and time than us," he shared with Sawatzky. "That is, to me, the special thing. I think what we're leaving here is a feeling of community, the feeling of connection, it feels like we're making friends. We are coming from half a world away, making connections as Canadians, as fellow believers, that's the circle we're a part of."

Hofer hopes the farmers and community members they've met will take away how much Canadians care about their well being and future.

"Even though we are from a better part of the world, if we can use that term, a more privileged part of the world, that we really still care about them," he said. "I think leaving their communities, and seeing these people, I think they get that. That's the special take away for me, just seeing them, meeting them, entering their world, and sharing their time and their stories."

Winnipeg's Hedie Epp shared a similar sentiment, pointing to the many women she's met during the journey.

"What really has struck me the last couple of days is the exuberance of the women," Epp said with a smile. "We've met with a number of groups of women, and when they're introducing themselves, sometimes they're a little shy, but then they all giggle and they carry on anyway. But when they're talking amongst themselves, trying to figure out how to answer our questions, or how to respond to what they've heard about us, they seem so inclusive and they're laughing and giggling about things. Also, if another woman comes along who hasn't been there, they immediately find a place for that person, and make sure she's not missed in the go around of introducing themselves. They just seem to be such a cohesive group, and so happy with the work they're doing."

terrace farming in nepalSeen in the distance, an example of the terrace farming practices used by Nepalese farmers in the foothills of the mountains.

Meanwhile, Kiersten Jensen from Saskatoon, who we introduced in a previous story about the learning tour which you can find below, noted the people, too, and the relationship they have with the non-governmental organization Rural Institution for Community Development (RICOD) which is being supported by Mennonite Central Committee Canada. RICOD is leading a a three-year nutrition and agriculture and livelihoods project in southern Lalitpur. Lalitpur’s remote location makes it difficult for community members to access markets, education, and health services. Many people farm on marginal land. As well, women, even while pregnant and breastfeeding, are often expected to eat last, to abstain from certain nutritious foods, and perform heavy labour. As a result, malnutrition levels in Lalitpur are high.

"Just how willing they are to learn, and to be helped," said Jensen. "Just the humility in that, and that they're so grateful for these (programs), and it really shows. That's a big thing that's come up in our conversations with them is their gratitude, and them sharing just how much these programs have helped them, and have changed their outlook on life and on food and agriculture itself. That's just really, really cool to to hear about, and to see in their faces and through their stories."

Yesterday through Wednesday, the learning tour is in the Dhading and Ambote areas before returning to Kathmandu and preparing to fly home to Canada on Friday.

- With files from Betty Sawatzky -

Gordon Janzen with Nepali beekeepersManitoba/NW Ontario Foodgrains Brank Regional Rep Gordon Janzen (right) with two Nepali beekeepers. Janzen, who is also a beekeeper, enjoyed spending time talking with the two men over their common interest.