Canadians help Malawi in cyclone aftermath

It was a farmer’s nightmare.

“They were anticipating a pretty good crop,” said Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, about farmers he was visiting in southern Malawi.

“When the cyclone hit, it was just before harvest.”

Cyclone Idai hit a swath of central Africa in March, devastating farming areas with hurricane force winds and flooding.

The farmers of southern Malawi had already suffered from the previous year’s drought, but had a good crop coming. The flooding caused entire crops to be wiped out.

That not only left the farmers of that region with no food to eat, but also nothing to sell for cash, and no seed for the next season’s crop.

Many also lost their homes to the flooding and ended up in tent cities.

“All of that was swept away,” said Cornelius.

Aid from organizations like the foodgrains bank and the church-based aid organizations it works with in Canada and Malawi helped get emergency food to those hit by Idai, as well as continuing aid for food and seed as they struggled to rebuild homes and farming communities.

Recovery has been helped by village protection committees, which local people operate in Malawi because the region often experiences serious weather events. But Idai was more than most communities could handle without help.

The foodgrains bank was part of a group called the Humanitarian Coalition, which received $2 million in matching contributions from the federal government between March 15 and April 14.

Some of that money is being used by the foodgrains bank and Presbyterian World Service and Development in their aid work, which is helping about 10,000 people.

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