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Extending hope for vulnerable communities

When the Gay Lea Foundation was first approached by Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) about the poverty-stricken Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia in 2016, food shortages and malnutrition were a continuing concern in the remote region near the country’s border with Sudan.

At that time, CPAR had just completed a five-year project with six Canadian and international NGOs in the region — but struggles with crop production, child malnutrition, and natural resource degradation remained.

“We learned there are many challenges contributing to the poverty and malnutrition in Benishangul-Gumuz,” says Rachel Caldara, Chair of the Gay Lea Foundation. “The Fighting Hunger: Benishangul-Gumuz Food Security and Economic Growth (BSG-FSEG) project had seen impressive progress over its five years, but CPAR was looking to extend the intervention and build upon what had already been achieved there.”

So it was that with the support of a $25,000 grant from the Gay Lea Foundation, CPAR launched Phase 2 of the BSG-FSEG project in 2016. One year later, the Foundation provided an additional $30,000 to support the final year of the Fighting Hunger Extension Project.

Targeting 7,200 households (2,400 directly and 4,800 indirectly), Phase 2 focused on three major interventions in Benishangul-Gumuz: crop production and productivity enhancement (via seed multiplication); nutrition education and training (focusing on children under five); and market development through co-operatives.

A final report from CPAR, issued in July 2018, indicates that, over the course of its two years, the Fighting Hunger Extension Project achieved the following positive results:

Increased harvests and better food security 

Due to the progressive adoption of seed multiplication (sowing and harvesting a single seed to produce multiple seeds), in conjunction with improved agricultural practices, CPAR recorded a 20 per cent overall increase in productivity among farmers using improved varieties of seeds compared to those using local varieties. As a result, more than 70 per cent of participating farmers have been able to feed their households without needing to purchase additional crops at market. Increased incomes from the sale of surplus crops have also had a direct effect on food security and livelihoods, as more farmers are able to cover their household expenses.

The establishment of multi-purpose marketing co-operatives 

CPAR successfully facilitated the organization of multiple farmer groups into three multi-purpose seed production, distribution and marketing co-operatives, supporting them with the provision of specific agronomic and co-operative training. The establishment of these co-operatives has increased the capacity of small scale-farm groups to meet local market demands for certified seeds, increase seed certification numbers and values, open doors to new markets, reduce waste and increase incomes.

Improved nutrition in children 

Malnutrition, especially in children under five, is a major barrier to development in the in the Benishangul-Gumuz region. Addressing this through a community-based approach centering on education for caregivers and the provision of fortified food for malnourished children, CPAR was able to reach 459 caregivers of malnourished children and rehabilitate an additional 263 malnourished children.

“At CPAR, we believe there is no better feeling than empowering the people in our communities,” says Dee Ucci, CPAR’s Senior Manager of Leadership Gifts. “We are so proud to have been able to accomplish so much with this project!”

“It brings us great joy to know that funds from the Gay Lea Foundation have helped make a real difference for these families,” adds Rachel Caldara.


About Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR)

Founded in 1984 in response to the famine in Ethiopia, Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) is a non-profit organization working in partnership with health professionals, vulnerable communities, governments and diverse organizations to build healthy communities in Africa.
CPAR supports the achievement of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development through programming that improves health systems capacity and addresses the determinants of health in the communities in which they are working (food security and nutrition, clean water, sanitation and hygiene, sustainable livelihoods). CPAR has field offices and programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tanzania, fully managed by nationals in these countries. Vsit to learn more.


About the Gay Lea Foundation

The Gay Lea Foundation is the official registered charity and collaborative forum for Gay Lea Foods and its members, directors and employees to support families and communities in need. Since receiving charitable status in 2014, the Foundation has provided more than $685,000 in funding support for education, poverty relief and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. The primary source of funding for the Foundation is an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods, which is supplemented by personal contributions from across the Gay Lea Foods family. Funding applications are assessed twice a year by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of Gay Lea Foods Directors, delegates, dairy producer members and employees.

The Gay Lea Foundation is a proud past supporter of CPAR’s Ukerewe Farmers Field School Project, which worked to improve the health, nutrition and economic well-being of rural farmers living on Ukerewe Island in Tanzania from August 2014 – July 2016.

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