From June 15-17, Sarah Chee and Julie Price from Tides Canada travelled to South Indian Lake/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN), Manitoba (four hours north of Thompson). Joined by community grantees and staff from Food Matters Manitoba and TNC Canada, the trip was the second community learning exchange this year and provided participants the chance to exchange and share their knowledge of country foods (traditional foods sourced from the land) and visit OPCN’s successful Ithinto Mechisowin Program.
The agenda included presentations, a tour of the IMP building, and a boat tour of the South Indian Lake area (which was drastically affected by the Churchill River Diversion Dam project in the 1970s). OPCN was also kind enough to include attendees in their Heritage Day Celebration with local youth. The celebration included games and teachings, such as traditional ways to make bannock, fix goose, and cut and prepare moose, and fish. Trip attendees also offered up their knowledge of traditional medicine and foraging, including picking Labrador leaves for tea and spruce sap for gum or a salve (when melted down with lard or honeycomb).
Toward the end of the trip, attendees also trekked to Leaf Rapids to visit their NMFCCC-supported nursery and greenhouse project and the Nelson House country foods program, which has been running since 1992.
“It was remarkable to see Julie in action and to better understand the challenges of on-the-ground work and see the reputation of Tides Canada in the area thanks to her work and relationship building,” said Sarah. “As a “southerner”, I didn’t fully comprehend some of the difficulties in working with remote Northern communities and how important the manner in which we conduct our grantmaking can be (e.g. multiyear funding). So much trust has to be earned to be truly effective and to empower community members. It was wonderful to see how keen and involved the community members are and how they are improving their health and economy, reclaiming culture, and rebuilding community and intergenerational bonds with food. It really tied together how analogous the NMFCCC work is to so much of our other work, but the mechanism of change here is food.”
In 2014, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative was established to work with communities to address the region’s serious food security challenges. In the remote communities in Northern Manitoba people struggle with very high rates of poverty, food insecurity, and related health issues. It was not always this way though, and community members have responded by launching an increasing number of innovative local solutions. Fishing cooperatives, gardens, wild food programs, bee apiaries, and greenhouses—these are just some of the ways northerners are using food to build community, improve health, strengthen local economies, provide opportunity for youth, and reclaim culture.
Read more here, and download a copy of the 2015 community report.
Iris Vaisman, Prairie Coordinator, Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security interviewed on May 26, 2016 by Julie Price
In April, 2016 approximately 55 people attended one of two workshops in Leaf Rapids Manitoba. Workshops were focused on skill building related to gardening and green-housing in the northern boreal forest, and in having people share information and stories with each other about growing plants in the north. Approximately 50 of the participants were community members for 18 different northern Manitoba communities. Another 8 people were from various southern-based organizations that wish to help out and partner with northern communities as they work for improved food access and local food sovereignty. Both Iris and Julie attended this event.
The first thing that comes to mind is meeting everyone. It was a combination of people being really cool and nice, and the fact that I find what they are doing so interesting. It was great to learn about them as people, to learn their personal stories and histories, and to learn what they are doing around food.
Another thing I really liked was hearing about what can grow in the boreal north and the technical details of how to grow different plants. I was amazed at the diversity of the vegetables you can grow and the diversity of the food production methods. The technical side of horticulture stuff appealed to me. Also, hearing stories about hunting and fishing and other ways that people gather food from the land was really great.
The cooking session at the workshop was so great. I really enjoyed everyone’s company and cooking together. It was really fun. Just being up there and in the community was really great. It’s important to be there I think.
What would you have changed about the event? How?
The first thing that comes to mind is name tags. For someone like me, everyone was new and I wanted to remember their names and to connect with them.
There was a fair amount of sharing time, but it felt like there needed to be more sharing about what was happening at the beginning of the workshop – for people to talk more about what they are doing in their communities. Giving more time for people to share their own experiences instead of being as heavy as it was in learning from the presenters.
There was a lot of information that was covered. I think going slower and doing a bit less but in more depth would have been good. However, I also know that there is so much to cover and people had different interests.
There were a few people that I was able to talk to about the history of their communities. These conversations stood out to me. I spoke to Hilda at length and she told me about the story of South Indian Lake, and about life before and after the damn (Churchill River Diversion). These were new stories to me. I had thought about hydro in northern Manitoba, and knew it was disruptive, but now I realize a bit more about how disruptive it was to people and communities. I had never heard a story directly from a person who was so negatively affected. This was new to me.
What new ideas or thoughts do you have about northern horticulture?
I didn’t realize how many things you could grow up there! All of the root vegetables, brassicas, strawberries, barley, and so on. You can grow such a diversity of foods! I don’t think I would have made that connection without seeing it myself. I thought that only a few things could grow there because of the climate.
and there are so many types of seeds available. To me it was more informal seed saving relative to what I see in the south. But that is not a bad thing. Part of me thinks it’s really lovely and beautiful to save seeds this way, and sometimes I would like to keep things not as strict. I recognize that there is value to both approaches to seed saving.
How will this trip inform your work moving forward?
There were a few technical things that I learned there (carrot seed tape, micro greens) that I haven’t necessarily used yet to inform my work but I can see using the information in the future. There is an aspect of the story telling that will inform my work as well as technical information about food production. I learned a lot in general, knowledge-wise too.
I think part of it is related to the comment about thinking more holistically and thinking about being more comfortable in talking about climate change and speaking about all of the generations. I don’t know how that will come out in a concrete way, but I want to maintain that essence in my work.
Something that I have noticed that is different since I attended the workshop is that I bring it up in conversations. I attend conferences and meetings and I am sharing stories of where I have been, conversations I had with people, and things that I have learned about. Northern and Indigenous people, foods and food systems are not always well represented in the conversations or the workshops that I attend.
Originally posted on Oct 19, 2015
After being closed for many years, the commercial fishing plant in Garden Hill First Nation, a fly-in community in Northern Manitoba, is up and running again. Float planes—carrying up between 800 and 1,400 pounds of fish—are able to do two trips a day in and out of the community to bring the fish to market.
In Garden Hill, fishing is very important culturally. It is something that’s always been done. The re-opening of the fish plant is an important milestone for the community, and an economic opportunity that offers food and employment prospects to the surrounding community.
Read the full blog here.
Interviewed on Oct 16, 2015 by Julie Price
What stands out in your mind about the Learning Trip to Garden Hill First Nation?
I remember a lot of things about Garden Hill. I was retelling my story yesterday to my friend and the one thing that really stands out to me about Garden Hill is the isolation. It’s so isolated and separated. The people seem disconnected from traditions and what it means to live off the land. But Garden Hill is beautiful, it was a beautiful place. And everyone seemed so friendly. It was strange, everyone says hello to you. They would wave to you from their vehicles. It was a nice welcome when we were there, like we had been there a long time or we were already part of the family.
Another thing that stood out to me was the fishermen. Fish is important. Everywhere we go there were boats, everyone uses a boat, partly because you have to. We had to use a boat to get from lodge to town, to the store, to get anywhere. We talked about fish as a source of nutrients for the plants, as the best way to improve the soil. We talked about fish everywhere we went. Fish are important as medicine to people, and for jobs in the community. The fishermen stood out to me.
What was it like for you to travel with a group of people from all over Canada?
I am used to travelling with groups, so that felt pretty normal to be together with everyone. What was different about this group was everyone’s different way of thinking and the diversity. It was nice. Everyone thought differently but we all had the same idea of what we have a as vision for a better future for everybody. I think that was a good thing.
After visiting Meechim Farm and the Meechim Fresh Market, what are your thoughts on that project?
I thought that was pretty cool with the chickens. Wow they raised a lot of chickens! It’s a really sweet idea. They are obviously not yet selling a lot of vegetables that they grew, but they are selling vegetables that people can afford to buy. I talked to people (customers) in the fresh market and asked them what they thought about buying food there. They said they were able to buy fresh food and good meats and eggs at the market instead of going across the lake. They told me it was more affordable and doesn’t cost everyone an arm and a leg to get some decent food.
I think it’s a good project, but they do need a lot of work in the gardening area. They don’t yet have gardening skills about planting and harvesting. I was talking to the people who have been working there and they don’t really know too much about it yet. If I ever go back there I would like to exchange ideas and share with them what I know. The staff people seemed excited about having a farm. I think they are all passionate about it. At first it was probably just a job, but it seems like they realize how big it could become. I explained about our project in Leaf Rapids and how it was just a trailer park and how there was nothing there. About how we cleared it out, and cut the grass and dug the soil and started planting. And now it is the most beautiful garden ever. And there in Garden Hill they have already gotten so far on their project, it could be amazing. They have cleared so much land and they have that farm building. I would like to go back again and share ideas, and help them learn more about growing food. It’s exciting to think about what they could accomplish.
About the Wabung Fishers Cooperative, what are your thoughts on that project?
It’s a really cool project. I like that they have a formed a cooperative. It means that people are really passionate about their work; it’s not just that they need money; there is passion there. You can see how hard people are working. It’s good that they got it going and got the deal with freshwater.
The community needs for these guys to have jobs so they can provide for their families. It’s so hard to live there, I was blown away by how expensive stuff is and how people are having a hard time. Some of the housing is in rough shape. People need opportunity and this is important opportunity for the community.
Tell me about the visit to the school.
The school was so amazing. I loved it. It is a big school, they have a lot of things that every school needs. The school was beautiful, there were lots of students. A lot of the kids were asking us if we were teachers. The bad thing they had was a pop machine in the school, I was looking around for a poster to contradict that pop was good, like a diabetes poster, but there wasn’t one!
When we went to the elementary school, I was blown away that they were learning their language at such a young age. I loved that there was an OjiCree lady teaching the kids their own language. That was so cool. I wish I had that chance as a kid and I wish I knew my language. I was a little jealous but also very happy that they get to keep that part of their heritage. It’s good that they have that (language) and that they are doing gardening and fishing. Trying to go back to living on the land is an important thing. I hope that us coming by the school and telling them about it more kids get involved in the project.
What was it like to speak to that big group of grade 10’s and 8’s?
Wow, it was different. It was weird. Usually I can’t do crowds. I don’t like it and I can’t talk or I choke. But right then in front of those kids, I had the words going and I was telling my story. I had their full attention and I thought wow, they really want to hear this. I liked it. Now if I were put in front of a crowd I think I could do it again. I overcame my fears. I felt like one of those guys who are motivational speakers – I liked sharing what I have done with my life and where I am now.
Why did you agree to become a Northern Advisor to the Northern Manitoba FCCF?
First thing, when you asked if I wanted to be a Northern Advisor, I wondered what that was and what I would be doing. I wanted to find out and learn more. I wanted to go out and learn; I wanted to know what was happening with this fund; and why people were coming up here (Leaf Rapids, South Indian Lake in 2014) to visit. I guess for me I agreed for the learning experience and to meet new people and to gain new knowledge.
So now that you have been doing it for a while, what do you see as your role as a Northern Advisor?
Our role is to guide you guys, because you don’t get to see what we have seen and what we grew up with. We tell you what bad choices some people are making, what good choices people are making. I have been part of two bands (Granville Lake & O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) and I have gotten to experience different things.
In South Indian Lake (OPCN) it’s the hydroelectric dam that has flooded everything and messed up the water and fish. In Granville it was the sewage system that backed up and made everyone so sick that we had to evacuate the community. In both communities stuff happened, and I learned.
It’s interesting to hear other communities trying to go those avenues (sewer systems, hydro dams) and I’ve been through that. If you don’t get the right people you could have people getting sick, you could lose your fish. Our role is to help you understand some of these things.
by Julie Price
Organizing a group of eight people from across Canada to visit a small, fly-in First Nation in the northern boreal forest of Manitoba comes with its share of stress and challenges. Will the cloud ceiling be high enough for our planes to fly? Will the local boat drivers be at the dock when we need them? Will trip participants new to this experience feel culture shock? Will the community feel heard and supported, or god-forbid – inspected?
It is with some relief, much joy, and many tough but important questions remaining that we ended our week in Garden Hill First Nation, Treaty 5 territory.
The community people in Garden Hill demonstrated determination to move their people into a stronger, healthier place. Fishers shared stories explaining why the work matters, why the fish matter, why keeping culture strong matters. Shyness slipped away as a group of grade 8 boys toured us through their school showing us the resources to help them grow their bodies and minds. At Meechim Farm we learned about the sweat invested into achieving the vision of a farm for Garden Hill and the associated ‘fresh market’ that increases community access to healthy foods.
All of this effort in the midst of the obvious challenges of limited and poor housing, incomplete services (sewer, water), a very young local population (half of the community is 18 or younger), high prices and low incomes, and the presence of gangs and violence in the community. People continue to amaze and inspire me in their perseverance and spirit and their commitment to a better quality of life for future generations.
Our visitor group was welcomed, and as the days passed, the sense of open exchange grew. Local people were amazed that we stayed for more than one day; that we kept showing up each morning. Increasingly open exchange with the community helped us to have deeper reflective conversations each evening. What is our role in northern indigenous projects? How best do we partner with northern indigenous communities in a supportive and productive way? How do we navigate and understand the complex challenges and opportunities faced by northern boreal people? How can a collaborative group of northern advisors, private funders, government funders, and supportive organizations work to reduce barriers and increase opportunity in northern indigenous communities? Can we even do this at all and should we be here? It is good to consider these questions and even better to work them through as a group.
Of course I don’t have all of the answers to those big questions. But as a group, I know we have more diverse perspectives, enhanced reflective powers, a broader set of skills and experiences, and more hearts and minds to apply to the task of becoming good partners in this important work. And I do firmly believe that we cannot begin without first sitting down with community members and trying to understand and learn from each other. We cannot become good partners without investing the time to know each other.
Heartfelt thanks to those in Garden Hill who were so welcoming, and helpful, and really made our trip possible. Thanks also to the trip participants who made the time and effort to be part of the continuing conversation. Finally, gratitude to the earth for keeping the cloud ceiling high, mostly holding off the rain and snow, and allowing our visitor group to see the beauty of northern Manitoba!
by Andi Sharma
My first thoughts upon entering the community started way up in the tiny plane as we approached the runway. The sheer vastness of Island Lake, with its bounty of small islands dotting the surface, unfolded beneath the plane as we came in for the landing. It struck me then that the stunning beauty of such remote isolation – the pristine waters, the seemingly endless boreal forest and all of the abundant wildlife that comes with these traditional, largely untouched lands – was at once the root of the problem and a pathway out of poverty for this community.
First stop on the trip was the Northern Store. It was an opportunity for the group to assess the costs of fresh food in the north and provide context for the food security work of the collaborative. I am quite familiar with the exorbitant food prices in northern Manitoba but even I was taken aback by a few of the prices. When you consider that sometimes 80% of a northern community can be on social assistance; and also consider that the daily food/personal item allotments for northern assistance in Manitoba amounts to approximately $16/day for a single mother of one; it seems a daunting task to feed a family on healthy foods when it’s $8.50 for a bunch of bananas, over $12 for 4 vine-ripened tomatoes and sometimes over $100 for 24-pack of drinking water at the Northern Store. This daily allowance also needs to cover much needed purchases such as diapers, so there are clearly tough decisions being made at the family level because of these prices.
The NMFCCF acknowledges the importance of industry in the north and hopes to help with the long journey to self-sufficiency by empowering communities to localize food systems through enterprise in order to avoid unjust pricing practices while simultaneously creating economic opportunity.
These meals would not have been possible without the tireless dedication of Ivan and Myra Harper, the local community healers and general adherents to traditional indigenous epistemologies. They are but one example of the generosity that seemed characteristic of the community. And yet, they seemed set apart by their tradition - surrounded by a world influenced heavily by modernity that feels disconnected from custom and heritage. Ivan made this painfully clear when he noted that we would be hard pressed to find someone without diabetes in any Garden Hill family; however he and his wife, who still eat largely a traditional foods diet, have escaped that seemingly inevitable fate for most of northern Manitoba’s First Nations people. Importantly, experts have found that this level of chronic diabetes is largely due to the changes in lifestyle brought about by colonization. The NMFCCF strives to support and encourage traditional practices as a critical pathway to reclaiming food sovereignty for indigenous nationhood.
The following morning was spent with two schools worth of Garden Hill’s children! There is nothing quite like the perspective of a child – so refreshingly honest and filled with promise. We asked them about their schools and their communities and they were eager to show us around and share their stories. When asked, one little boy spoke about gardening with his kokum and moshum and how it’s his favorite way to spend time with them. For such a young life, he was full of insight around why gardening is important and how it helps his family’s access to food, “my kokum says it’s good for you and it’s free”. Intergenerational knowledge transfer is another cornerstone of NMFCCF projects. Wherever possible, the collaborative likes to see youth engagement on food security projects because as we all know, the youth represent the hopes and dreams of a food secure nation.
Next on the agenda was a visit to Meechim Inc., a social enterprise project that employs community members to locally produce vegetables, fruit and small livestock (chickens and turkeys). It was very clear from the moment you stepped onto the farm that there was an enormous amount of work carried out in a relatively short period of time. The monumental undertaking of clearing the brush for over 10 acres of land, while constructing a greenhouse and farmhouse from nothing, and also taking care of chickens, turkeys and weeds – seemed just staggering. And yet here I was, approximately 8 months after funding had been released, looking at incredible transformation of the abstract paperwork I complete in the
Last, but certainly not least, was a trip to visit the local commercial fishing plant. The plant itself had fallen into disrepair at the hands of vandals, but that mattered little to the group that was touring us around the facility. They spoke with clarity, purpose and vision about where the plant would be in one year and how it would impact the community for generations. We sat with the elders and knowledge keepers of traditional fishing practices to hear their stories, understand their challenges and celebrate their accomplishments. One of the most beautiful moments of this visit was watching the elder fishermen defer to their sons and nephews, the next generation of traditional fishermen that they are raising through this project, to show us southerners how to set a fishing net.
for such a more robust experience of philanthropy and I am grateful to have shared these memories with some wonderful people, all trying to make a difference in our little northern corner of the world.
by Andi Sharma
The NMFCCF (The Fund) Open House was held on June 2nd and welcomed a diversity of stakeholder interests to see what The Fund has been up to over the last several years. We celebrated by listening to stories, and then eating some great food catered by Neechi Commons – a local indigenous workers cooperative and social enterprise that provided delicious food inspired by the traditional foods in the North. The invited guests were as eclectic as the collaborative members themselves with representation from northern communities, current funders, private sector organizations, government and a whole host of support organizations. Julie Price, the Fund’s director, provided an overview of The Fund’s operational activities since its inception three years ago. You simply couldn’t help but be inspired as she covered the community impact, the growth of the Fund and the incredible lived realities of the lives that the NMFCCF has touched. And how better to illustrate the human aspect of our work than by kicking off the event with the premiere showing of the incredibly powerful and moving video Na-Tas-kek: Reconnecting with Mother Earth created by the talented team at BUILD Films._
In fact, humanizing the issue of food insecurity was a critical focus for our Open House, so as a way to both honor our foundational principle of shared learning and embody the ethos of collective impact, several community members were asked to share their stories. Carl McCorrister and his grandson Toryan of Peguis First Nation were invited to share the story of their Community Garden Project; Hilda Dysart and Shirley Ducharme of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin spoke about the wonderful traditional foods work they are doing with both youth and elders; and though unable to attend, Larry Alm was invited to share his experiences with small livestock husbandry through their community chicken raising project. These stories were a heartwarming and inspirational way to connect the current and potential funders to the communities they support and really demonstrate the value of the Fund’s work.
In keeping with the notion of humanizing the work of the Fund, two presentations by current Fund members followed the community stories which allowed for two things: to demystify the role of the funder in the collaborative and provide insight into the tangible benefits of being part of the funding collaborative. Some of the key benefits highlighted included: the access to a broader network of stakeholders and the increased access to funding that comes with such extension; the ability to tap into a diverse array of the talent that forms the collaborative; the mobilization of the entire food security continuum (government, private and non-profit organizations) toward a singular goal; and the critical component of community involvement to engage in reciprocal learning so that funders and communities alike can learn from one another.
From my perspective, the Open House was not only an opportunity to share the NMFCCF story with prospective funders, but was also a chance to connect the funders with the communities that they support and together celebrate the past year. It should come as no surprise that the relationship between funders and recipients is often complicated by the divisive power imbalance that is thought to be inherent to the granter/grantee paradigm of philanthropy. However the NMFCCF opts instead for inclusivity and bridges these divides through intensive relationship and trust building. To that end, we take every opportunity to work with grant recipients in a direct and reciprocal manner so they can know our names, faces and know too that we are not another set of “helicopter” philanthropists who parachute in to provide some assistance then leave as abruptly as they came – a situation all too familiar for Manitoba’s northern communities. So in this way, the Open House was a perfect example of how the NMFCCF’s community-driven model tries to incorporate the ethos of collaboration and collective impact into all aspects of the Fund’s operations.
Being part of the NMFCF has helped me understand that the secret to success for addressing complex and nuanced social issues, like food insecurity, is actually a messy and prolonged process which requires a sustained campaign to increase the capacity and coordination of the entire continuum of actors in the food security sector – from the community to the government and everything in between. This, I think, is what the NMFCCF is trying to accomplish by bringing all interests to the same table and to begin in earnest, an agenda of change at a level unprecedented in northern Manitoba. We often speak about our guiding African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. For me, the Open House demonstrated that above all else – if we work together, we can accomplish so much more.
originally published by Tides Canada on December 4, 2014
The Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network (CEGN) recently interviewed Julie Price, Tides Canada’s Senior Associate, Manitoba. Julie spoke to CEGN about the collaborative Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Fund and a recent trip that members of the Fund took to northern Manitoba to visit some of the communities and projects that have received funding and to see some of the change firsthand. Read the full interview below. Pegi Dover, Executive Director, CEGN: In September, I had the wonderful opportunity to join with a number of funders in a trip to northern Manitoba. The trip involved meetings with the communities of Leaf Rapids and South Indian Lake (also known as O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) to learn about work that had been undertaken through the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Fund. Steered by Julie Price, of Tides Canada, the Fund is an innovative and collaborative effort involving multiple funding agencies (8 funders currently) and northern community people working together to create community-driven solutions to food insecurity, community health, community economic development, and environmental degradation.
A chance to dig for Yukon Gold potatoes in the large boreal garden that has been created on the site of an old trailer park in Leaf Rapids; to learn from community members in South Indian Lake about the decline of the fisheries due to flooding and erratic management of water levels; and to have my first taste of moose meat (yummy) were some of the highlights of the trip for me. But what struck me most was the Fund’s strong commitment to shared learning. Northern Manitobans are intrinsically involved in advising and guiding the operations of the Fund in an effort to cut through the traditional top-down philanthropic model which distances ‘helpers’ from those who are ‘helped’ and includes significant power imbalances.
Editor: Thanks for your time today Julie and a big thank you for the opportunity to join you and other funders in September. Can you start by telling us about the core concerns that underlie the creation of the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Fund?
Julie receiving a fish filleting lesson from a community member of South Indian Lake.
Julie: Northern Manitoba is a region where communities struggle with very high rates of poverty, food insecurity, and related health issues. In one of the communities we work in, 65% of the adult population has Type II diabetes, a preventable disease that is related to food and exercise. The physical and mental health of children is also severely at risk in many communities. But it was not always this way. In tackling these issues, the Fund supports projects that involve food and have an impact on community economic development. In doing so, we follow the Neechi Principles of Community Economic Development which include an emphasis on the use of locally produced goods and services and local skill development.
Editor: How does the Fund operate?
Julie: The Fund is rooted in earlier work on northern Manitoba food issues by Heifer Canada. Tides Canada now leads this work and we extended a direct invitation to a number of funders, asking them to participate in the collaborative. These were funders who were interested in food and indigenous issues and who saw the advantages of working together to create a larger pool of funding and to learn together how best to deploy support.
As our objective is to help foster locally-derived solutions, a critical component of the Fund is the participation and guidance of Northern Advisors. We currently have five Northern Advisors who have committed to sharing their personal experiences and viewpoints for the benefit of the Fund and ultimately for the benefit of northern Manitoba. They bring a deep experience of working and living in Manitoba’s north. Northern Advisors work with participating funders to share learning. Another component is the development of a community of approximately 20 volunteers who are primarily northern people and who provide peer reviews of the grant applications. Learning trips to northern communities for funders and northern Advisors form another key element of the approach, helping to inspire and inform perspectives.
There are many stories in northern communities of well intentioned people who come into the community with an idea of what the community should do. This top-down approach has resulted in a legacy of failed projects. It was because the projects weren’t ones that the communities felt ownership over. The approach here is to develop the capacities of philanthropic organizations to become effective partners and for communities to know that funders are there to listen and learn.
Editor: Tell us about some of the projects to date.
Julie: In the first year, we provided $225,000 in grants and there was a real diversity of projects. About one-third of them were horticultural in nature – gardens and greenhouses which produced significant amounts of local produce, often with the involvement of local youth. Other projects were focused on livestock and chickens and one was focused on the production of organic honey through a beekeeping initiative. Still other projects focused on the harvesting of country foods and reconnecting local youth to the land. In one community, freezers are now stocked with moose meat and fish that 400 residents are benefiting from. One woman from the community told me that she had lost 35 pounds through being able to eat traditional foods.
In addition to the project grants, grantees participate in shared learning conference calls three times annually. Funders and Northern Advisors are encouraged to build their understanding by joining the Shared Learning Calls as ‘listeners’.
Editor: What are the next steps for the Fund?
Julie: A call for applications is currently underway and we will make another round of grants in February, 2015. We are inviting more partners to the work and two new funders have joined this fall. We are particularly interested in exploring private partnerships with businesses that service the north. We will be supporting some new types of community-led solutions – investing in some new approaches and sharing the outcomes with northern communities. We also will be releasing a story-telling video in January, featuring five of the communities we have worked with and how they are addressing food issues. The video will be widely available as a tool for northerners to learn from each other. With the support of Health in Common, an evaluation organization, we will be conducting an evaluation on the funding model to identify the strengths, challenges and impact of working as a collaborative. We’re also developing a website for improved communication about the Fund & our collaborative model.
Editor: Thanks Julie for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm. We wish you the very best with this pioneering initiative.
If you are interested in learning more about the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Fund, please contact Julie Price. You can also read more about the recent funder trip to northern Manitoba here.