Dennis and Betty Turner are back in Manitoba after travelling overseas to help farmers in Ethiopia

By Riley Laychuk for CBC News |

It’s an experience Betty and Dennis Turner will never forget.

The farming couple from Killarney, Manitoba, a community about 200 km southwest of Winnipeg, recently returned from a trip to witness and help farming operations first hand in Ethiopia.

“It really was hot there. The Ethiopian people were used to it. But we were not.”

The Turners were part of a group of 12 Canadians to head to the African nation from January 28 to February 12 as part of a Canadian Foodgrains Bank initiative that helps farmers deal with drought.

Betty and Dennis Turner were part of a group of 12 Canadians to travel to Ethiopia to help farmers in the African nation. (PHOTO: Betty Turner )

Betty and Dennis Turner were part of a group of 12 Canadians to travel to Ethiopia to help farmers in the African nation. (PHOTO: Betty Turner )

“It was us grassroots farmers to see grassroots farmers in Ethiopia and see first hand the projects they [Canadian Foodgrains Bank] assist with,” Betty Turner said. “Farmers to farmers on how it’s making a difference.”

Turner said farms in the country are a lot smaller than in Manitoba, with the average farm being one-half to a one hectare in size. Many are built into the rocky, dry hillsides. She said farmers have been learning new water conservation techniques, such as how to make an efficient mulch.

“Like us here in Manitoba, they need rain to make crops grow,” she said. “So we could feel their pain in wanting crops to grow or food to grow to feed their families.”

Turner said local farmers showed them how they are using banana leaves, maize leaves and manure to create a mulch that helps restore moisture in the dry soil.

Work ethic second to none

But it wasn’t just the innovative techniques that resonated with Turner. It was the work ethic of local farmers that seemed to affect her the most.

Many people in Ethiopia navigate the rough, hilly terrain on foot, according to Betty Turner (PHOTO: Betty Turner )

Many people in Ethiopia navigate the rough, hilly terrain on foot, according to Betty Turner (PHOTO: Betty Turner )

“The women carried 20 liters of water on their back from the river up their terrace to fill empty pop bottles that were made into a drip system,” Turner said, getting emotional at times. “These women worked from seven a.m. to five p.m, seven days a week. They carried this water three kilometers each trip. They would do that up to 10 times a day.

“We asked them how they felt about working so hard… they said they were happy to have a job.”

Turner said despite the trying heat, the landscape and drought that has lasted more than 18 months, people were still happy.

“I saw very happy people. People that helped one another and we all wanted to do more. It doesn’t seem fair that people in other parts of the world should be hungry,” she said. “But we asked them what more we could do for them.”
They had one request, she said.

‘Our efforts make a difference’

“They said simply pray for us.”

Turner said she was moved to see how happy the people in Ethiopia were despite how little some had.

“Our efforts do make a difference there. The people are very appreciative. They are thankful for our help.”

And while Turner said she is thankful for the experience, she doesn’t want to go on another trip of that kind. Instead, she would want someone who hasn’t taken in the experience to have a chance to do so for themselves.

“We all pledged to do something more when we came back. I did pledge that I would try and be a good ambassador for the Ethiopian people.”

“We are really blessed to live in Canada,” she said.

Source: CBC News
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