NORQUAY, SK (January 7, 2011) – Despite long stretches of inclement weather that reduced crop yields in 2010, farmers in the Kernels for Hope project raised a record amount of money to fund sustainable development for their counterparts in Africa.
After receiving matching funds, Kernels raised $457,000, says Ray Baloun, who directs the endeavor and is a member of the Minnedosa Evangelical Covenant Church in Minnedosa, Manitoba. In its six-year history, the project has raised $1.7 million.
The project has raised more money each year since it began in 2005. The first year yielded $69,000.
This year’s funds will help provide fishing equipment as well as seed and tools for farmers in Awiel in South Sudan. The Sudanese have suffered through years of civil war, and the donations will help them reestablish their farming operations and livelihoods. “The effects of this project will be felt for more than one generation,” Baloun says.
Kernels is operated on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. Farmers in three provinces donate their time to grow wheat and canola crops on a portion of their land set aside to be “purchased” by virtual farmer donors. Those donations pay the costs of rent, seed, chemicals, insurance, and custom work.
When the crops are sold, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) matches the grain sales revenue on a four-to-one ratio to reach the final donation amount. That money is distributed to the intended recipients through the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) and World Relief Canada (WRC).
“I didn’t like multiplication much in school but I really like it now!” declares Baloun, also jokingly known as “the grain guy.”
A seed company in Norquay also organized farmers in their area and was able to contribute crops that were leveraged into $149,000 of Kernel’s total for the year.
“We are able to put resources directly into the hands of the poorest of the poor while increasing awareness of how people in North America can get involved even more,” Baloun says. “Is there a more basic or more important industry to accomplish this than agriculture?”
Farmers are often at the mercy of the weather, and it wasn’t merciful this year. Baloun says he was surprised the project raised so much money, given the conditions.
One family was unable to seed the 70 acres they set aside because the rain didn’t stop long enough to allowed the planting. Rain forced another family to sow their crop late. Frost later reduced the size and quality of the yield.
Some, though, were able to produce large crops despite the weather. One family “dealt with monsoon-like conditions, and the season seemed to drag on forever for them,” Baloun says. Still the yield was high and of good quality, which increased the cash return. Another family was “beginning to watch for wood to construct an ark” but ultimately was able receive a high financial return.
“The prices of canola have been very good this year,” Baloun says. “Good yields getting good prices is also another mathematical formula I like.”
Baloun says he was excited about the “cash crop.” “That is where we have more virtual farmers than we have acres by the end of the year. Those funds get an automatic four to one match.”
He calls it “no risk farming.”
Recalling several biblical themes, Baloun notes that canola seeds are tiny. “There are nearly 400,000 canola seeds in one bushel,” he says. “A bushel weighs 50 pounds. The seeds themselves are small but, like the people helping with the Kernels project, when you put them together, you really have something of huge value.”