A glimpse into soil health in Africa at Ag in Motion

Monday, July 15, 2019


Warren MaCauley (right) with volunteer Kara Gervin at the conservation agriculture demo plot of Canadian Foodgrains Bank. (Photo: Rick Block)

Canadian agronomists help grow demonstration plot using farming practices from East Africa

Agriculture changed Warren MaCauley’s life.

If you had told the Saskatoon-based agronomist that he’d be working in the agricultural field ten years ago, he wouldn’t have believed you. “I don’t have a background in agriculture,” he says. “I have a business degree.”

It wasn’t until he travelled to Madagascar on a missions trip that MaCauley realized the important role agriculture plays in people’s lives around the world—and the important role it would eventually play in his. “That trip changed my life direction. I was learning about agricultural extension work, and that really sparked my love of agriculture in a third world setting.”

“I saw how agriculture can change people’s lives,” he says, noting he had some experience with agriculture in a Canadian context before the trip, but not much. “During the summers of my first degree, I went and worked on a farm outside Edmonton, but there you see big machines and they have crop insurance and more stability.”

In Madagascar, and other developing countries around the world, the experience of farmers is different. “You see these farmers trying to live, and you know that if a crop doesn’t grow, there’s no crop insurance. They are relying on this crop to live until the next year,” says MaCauley. “That’s where I was like, ‘Wow this really matters to them.’”

Warren returned home and immediately applied to study agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Since immersing himself in Canadian agriculture, he’s continued to look for ways to support farmers overseas. This week he will get another chance.

Sharing experiences of farmers in developing countries

MaCauley has volunteered his agronomy expertise to help plant and tend a demonstration plot at the upcoming Ag in Motion farm show. “The plot demonstrates the agricultural practices that are used in East African countries, so this gives a visual for the farmers to see what’s going on around the world,” he says. “Part of the trial is an intercropping trial, where two crops are grown in one area. We have traditional flour corn and bean that are growing together, and it’s some insight into how plants can benefit each other.”

It will be hosted at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank booth, and show attendees are invited to visit the booth and learn more about farming overseas.

“We’ll also have African agronomists join us at the booth,” says Rick Block, Foodgrains Bank regional representative in Saskatchewan. “They work on Foodgrains Bank-supported projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, and have extensive background working with small-scale farmers in their home countries.”

“It’s a special opportunity for farmers and Canadians interested in agriculture to learn about the similarities and differences with farming in developing countries,” adds Block. “They’ll also hear more about how, with training, farmers overseas can grow more food for their families and improve their livelihoods.”

To learn more, visit the Foodgrains Bank booth at Ag In Motion, located at site 379, near the corner of 3rd Street and BC Drive. Tours of the demonstration plots will take place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

–Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Officer