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North River woman motivated by experience in Malawi

Carol Jones, left, and her husband Greg, third from left, took part in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank trip to Malawi where they spent three days living with Anita Chitaya and Christopher Nyoni. During the visit they learned about the impacts climate change has had on the area.
Carol Jones, left, and her husband Greg, third from left, took part in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank trip to Malawi where they spent three days living with Anita Chitaya and Christopher Nyoni. During the visit they learned about the impacts climate change has had on the area. - Submitted

NORTH RIVER, N.S. – When she considered climate change, Carol Jones thought about glaciers and polar bears. However, a recent trip showed her it also affects whether some families are able to eat or not.

“I was surprised by how little aware I was of the impact climate change was having on the lives on individuals,” she said. “In Malawi, 80 per cent of the people live in rural areas. Climate change has resulted in longer drought seasons and unpredictability in rain. Heavier rains can wipe out crops, and if your family depends on what you grow in order to live, you don’t have enough for the year.

“I never thought about climate change affecting hunger before, and what I saw moved me in a way I never thought it would.”

Carol and her husband, Greg, took part in a two-week Canadian Foodgrains Bank Learning Tour to Malawi in early February. The couple spent three days living with a family in Malawi.

“We stayed with Christopher Nyoni and Anita Chitaya and their family,” said Carol.  “They were well off by comparison with many others in the area. They had a square cement house with a steel roof. There was no paint and they had very old, threadbare furniture and one small table. There were two bedrooms, and they gave us theirs and slept in the smaller room.”

The couple had three children and two grandchildren living with them, but they slept in a smaller building. Meals were cooked in a lean-to, baths involved standing on a concrete pad and washing with a bucket of water, and the toilet was a hole in the ground. There was no electricity or running water.

“To get water they went to the well and carried it back in five-gallon buckets,” said Carol. “Even six-year-old girls were carrying five-gallon buckets on their heads.”

When the family’s oldest daughters, now in their twenties, were infants, they suffered from malnutrition. With assistance from a long-term agricultural development project, funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and Global Affairs Canada, they were provided with seed and information to grow a variety of crops, where before they had only been growing maize. They not only became self-sufficient, but were able to grow enough to sell what they didn’t need.

“There are 15,000 farmers who adopted this program in the region, and the hospital wing that was dedicated to malnourished children is now closed,” said Carol. “The program is expanding to other places now, and the woman we stayed with is a volunteer trainer.”

While her husband, a chartered accountant with a background in agriculture, has been volunteering with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for a few years, it was Carol’s first trip abroad with the organization.

“I’m much more motivated to look at my own life and see how I can reduce my carbon footprint now,” she said. “We have a responsibility. It starts with one person, and Truro has an opportunity to become a leader in this.”

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 Canadian churches. It works internationally through a network to provide funding and other support for projects involving emergency food aid, agricultural development, nutrition and food security.

For more information, or to request a presentation for a group, contact Greg or Carol at gregsjones@eastlink.ca or call 902-897-7461.

lynn.curwin@trurodaily.com

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