Seedlings growing in small cups.
MCC Photo/Matthew Sawatzky

Grow Hope supports projects that increase food security for families by using conservation agriculture to produce cereal crops and vegetables in places like Zimbabwe. These seedlings are getting ready for transplant at Kulima Mbobumi Training Center, an MCC partner.

Playing time: 
Join Threads for an update about Grow Hope and stories about the international impact of the program.


Listen in for a Grow Hope seasonal update from Nikki Hamm Gwala, MCC Manitoba's Grow Hope coordinator and Ed Barkman, Grow Hope volunteer. Vurayayi Pugeni, the area director for MCC in southern and central Africa and Nigeria joins our host, Kyle Rudge, with a few inspiring and impactful stories.


Please note: As of July, Threads will air on the first Sunday of the month instead of the fourth.


Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month. Visit to hear more podcasts from MCC Manitoba.


Audio Transcription:

Kyle Rudge  0:00  
[MUSIC] It begins with a single thread, woven through another thread and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. [MUSIC]

This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC Threads. Where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. 

Ed Barkman  0:51  
It's it's really tough on the farm there's no doubt about it. I just turned my sprinkler on before you called and I could leave that sprinkler going two days straight and it probably wouldn't do as much as a good hour long rain. 

Kyle Rudge  1:04  
We are handful of months past planting season and a little ways away from harvest. And despite there not being much rain, there is hope for MCC Manitoba's Grow Hope project.

Nikki Hamm Gwala  1:15  
My name is Nikki Hamm Gwala and I am MCC's Grow Hope Coordinator in Manitoba. 

Kyle Rudge  1:20  
We talk about Grow Hope every year. But since it's so important to us at MCC we can sometimes gloss over some of the details of what the project actually is. So to start this episode, and before we get to the stories of impact that Grow Hope has and is having here in Manitoba and around the world. I figured it was best for Nikki to lay some of the groundwork

Nikki Hamm Gwala  1:39  
Grow Hope is a community of rural and urban Manitobans working together to help end global hunger. Through Grow Hope you can sponsor an acre of Manitoba and farmland for $300. This covers the cost of seeds and inputs for a local farmer to grow a crop on that acre. At the end of the season, the farmer will sell your crop for a maximum return yield at about $500 or more depending on the season .

Kyle Rudge  2:05  
Grow Hope has been going on for several years now.

Ed Barkman  2:08  
I'm Ed Barkman, I work as a volunteer with MCC Manitoba on the Grow Hope project. Two years ago, Dorothy and I had the privilege of joining a learning tour to Southern Africa primarily Zimbabwe, a bit of time in Zambia and a bit of time in South Africa as well. And saw firsthand the the impact the connection between what we do here and what is needed there. And and we're just incredibly struck by the relatively small amount of resources it takes to make a huge difference in the lives of families and communities where they're they're struggling to make just to make ends meet to get food on the table year round and hopefully have a bit of money to support sending kids to school and such. So for for me that's that's certainly the connection and and the passion that makes my involvement and a little bit of work I do with with Grow Hope more than worthwhile.

Kyle Rudge  3:21  
Ed has been with Grow Hope since the beginning.

Ed Barkman  3:23  
Yeah Grow Hope was the brainchild of the farmer, Grant Dyck, of Artel Farms in Niverville just just outside of Winnipeg or Niverville. And Vurayayi Pugeni, a Zimbabwean young man who was with MCC here in Winnipeg for some years working in administration of overseas program.

Kyle Rudge  3:46  
When Ed mentioned Pugeni, my mind immediately went into overdrive. What are the odds I could manage to speak to Pugeni about the impact of projects like Grow Hope overseas. 

Vurayayi Pugeni  3:58  
Hello, everybody. My name is Vurayayi Pugeni. And I'm the area director for MCC in southern and central Africa and Nigeria.

Kyle Rudge  4:08  
Pugeni loves to tell stories and put us into someone else's shoes so we can experience their life if even for just a moment.

Vurayayi Pugeni  4:15  
This is one story that brings joy to my mind when I think of it.

Kyle Rudge  4:20  
Pugeni's story takes place in northwestern Kenya, far from the coast and in a region that borders Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda. Here livestock farmers struggle to find pastures for their animals to graze.

Vurayayi Pugeni  4:32  
And because of climate change, pastures are now very, very hard to get. That means that sometimes mothers are lefted in the little shacks, while men and boys go very long distances with their livestock. When men go long distances to their livestock, what it means is that they also have gone long distances with a much needed food.

Kyle Rudge  4:56  
For these communities their staple food source is goat milk, blood and meat. 

Vurayayi Pugeni  5:01  
So when you take your goats all the way, it means that you are basically leaving women and children with no food to eat because that is their source of food.

Kyle Rudge  5:09  
In working with local partners MCC identified the needs and the challenges of this problem.

Vurayayi Pugeni  5:14  
In most cases, people will decide to ask them to stay in one place. But asking them to stay in one place would mean that they would lose their livelihood. They are goats, need pastures. So, MCC decided to come up with bank cards. Working with a bank, MCC provided bank cards to these communities. And then would add money into those banks through those wire transfers. Mothers and children are able to access the much needed assistance to buy food, and also take care of their hygiene needs.

Kyle Rudge  5:49  
I was, on one hand, please that hungry people are being fed, but truly wondered if there is more at play than just money donated to buy food.

Vurayayi Pugeni  5:57  
When I visited Tucana, I met with an [inaudible], who told me so passionately about how this has transformed her life. She said to me, now we have access to food. When our boys and our husbands go far with their goats, we still know that we have something to eat. And by the way, access to cash is also transforming gender relations. As men are now getting closer to their wives, who in this case, are the owners of the bank cards. It's also a secure way of delivering aid. Because, if you take the bank card, and you don't have the PIN code, or the biometric that is required for you to unlock it, then you cannot use that bank card. This was one innovation that MCC implemented to solve a complex problem that brings joy to my heart. 

Kyle Rudge  6:52  
All that from someone in Manitoba sponsoring an acre of land in the Grow Hope project. But there's more to it even here in Manitoba. It's not just about the financial venture of growing seeds and thus funds to impact projects worldwide.

Nikki Hamm Gwala  7:06  
I think that Grow Hope offers an opportunity for bridge building between rural and urban Manitoba neighbors. It offers those of us who are less connected to the land opportunities to learn about the growing process, get to know our farming neighbors and better appreciate where our food comes from.

Kyle Rudge  7:22  
I could admit when I had my meal this morning, I was not wondering where my eggs came from, or where the grain in my cereal was grown. I just kind of ate it. 

Ed Barkman  7:31  
And so one of the things we do a regular update newsletter pretty much once a month during the growing season. And part of that is talking about, so what's it like on the farm? Hey, these guys are struggling with sort of the drought this year or last year with bumper crops of wheat going and there's huge optimism.

Kyle Rudge  7:52  
Last year was an off year for many of us. I know working at MCC there was a lot of questions about fundraising because everyone was feeling the challenges that COVID brought us.

Ed Barkman  8:02  
You know, I went into, all of us at MCC, went into last year thinking if we did half for two thirds of the acres we did the year before we would be really happy. We did almost as much as we did in in 20, in 2019. We had over 300 acres that were sponsored last year, which was just just phenomenal. And it was, to me, it was certainly an indication that people you know, while they're while their lives were being turned upside down by COVID, and people were going into into isolation and cocoon mode, physically their their thoughts, their motivations to to help were intact, and people responded.

Kyle Rudge  8:51  
And even as our restrictions ease in 2021, our farmers have been faced with yet another challenge.

Ed Barkman  8:58  
It's it's really tough on the farm. There's no no doubt about it. Yeah, I just turned my sprinkler on before before you called and I could leave that sprinkler going two days straight and it probably wouldn't do as much as a good hour long rain. It's it's a bit spotty. We're involved with with six farmers, most in the Winnipeg and south and southwest. We have one partner in the Rivers area. I spoke with him yesterday and he was pretty upbeat. They would love to see more more moisture, they could certainly have used it. But he's he's thinking the crops are going to come in. Well, certainly the cereals that are going to be coming off in the next couple of weeks are looking sort of average-ish. In the south and southwest, it's tougher for sure, we've had so little rain, it's just just not much at all and most of that came in probably the last half of May, maybe into June a little bit. So the crops are really really suffering.

Kyle Rudge  10:04  
If you're interested in knowing more supporting or just following along with the project you can find information at Manitoba Grow Gope initiative at, I want you to extend a huge thank you to all those that have supported Grow Hope these past years. I figured it was worth ending on another story from Pugeni about the impact your support has had. The story is from Zimbabwe. And here the challenge was the work at home, the cooking, the cleaning, the crops that you would eat at home, the fetching of water, the kids' education and so much more fell solely on the shoulders of some very hard working women. That effort, because it did not generate a tangible income, was not always recognized by the men in the community. 

Vurayayi Pugeni  10:48  
Now in this case, MCC and the partner decided to come up with a solution called the "Men Can Cook" competition. This is almost like the master chef program here in North America, where people cook meals and then have someone judge and decide which one was the best. 

Kyle Rudge  11:08  
This competition wasn't just about cooking, the men actually had to grow everything they had to cook. 

Vurayayi Pugeni  11:16  
By doing that, MCC actually made men realize the importance of green vegetables of green tomatoes of green onions, and also the cereals that they already knew how to grow. 

Kyle Rudge  11:28  
The men of these communities had to learn to cook. So they often turn to the Home Economics teachers, but they were not always available. 

Vurayayi Pugeni  11:35  
The reason why the Home Economics teacher was not available every time was to allow for men to start learning from their wives and their daughters. This just gave opportunities for amazing conversations on how much it takes to prepare food, what is required, and the skills that come with that. Hey, as if that is not enough, women became decision makers. They also became experts in their own right, now they are the ones telling men how to cook. They are the ones that are judging at the cooking competition as to which meal is the best. And they're the ones handing the presents or the gift or the prizes to the men that succeeded in the cooking competition. This was transformational as as one participant said. This man had just won the competition and I asked him, I said so you have won the competition, "What are you going to do?". He looked at me with a big smile and said, "Pugeni, the next assignment is now for me to go and cook for my in-laws." Can you believe that? Cooking for his in-laws, I was so excited. What a wonderful time to be working for an organization that connects so well with people, respect their culture, value their input in the design of how projects are done, and then deliver a project that is so transformational in such an empowering way for men and boys and also in such an empowering way for women and girls.

Kyle Rudge  13:07  
Now if we could somehow capture that and put it into a show on Netflix, that would definitely be something I would binge watch. 

MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance from Emily-Ann Doerksen and Allison Zacharias. Thank you to Ed, Nikki and Pugeni for your knowledge, wisdom and stories. And thank you to the farmers of Grow Hope for your dedication as you diligently work the fields for such a great purpose.

Transcribed by