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Published February 23, 2011, 01:40 PM

Program brings used farm machinery to producers in developing countries

Do you have a small tractor, seeder or baler collecting dust beside your barn? It could be put to good use helping farmers overseas.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

Do you have a small tractor, seeder or baler collecting dust beside your barn? It could be put to good use helping farmers overseas.

That’s the message of Tractors for Peace, a nonprofit seeking small farm equipment donations throughout the Great Plains to be delivered to farmers in developing countries, such as Ghana, the Republic of Maldives, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Program leaders stopped in Grand Forks, N.D., recently to make that pitch, hoping to spur interest farmers in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota’s Red River Valley and beyond.

“So many aid programs are not really working,” executive director Eugene Chase says. “What happens so many times is that money is sent to these countries, but it never gets out of the capital, it never helps people who really need it. We work from the brush to the capital, because that’s where it’s needed.”

“We’ve found a way to break that cycle, to get the tools they need over there,” says Philip Showalter, project manager.

They’re interested in equipment for small-scale farming, good for use on farms 10 acres or smaller.

Tractors for Peace, which is part of a larger nongovernmental organization called Traditions and Hope, was organized in 2009 to address food shortages in developing regions, where small-scale farming often means tilling small plots of land with a hoe.

“It’s so time–consuming,” says Kristi Chase, medical director. “They just grow for themselves, rather than for the market.”

Sustainable goal

Tractors for Peace focuses on sustainability. Rather than sending money, it collects donated equipment, refurbishes and delivers it and trains people to use it, as well as to market their harvest of corn, pineapples and other crops to the community.

“If they had refrigeration, transportation and basic sanitation, 60 percent of their corn or other produce wouldn’t be wasted,” she says. “We teach people how to grow for a wider market. We’re bringing up whole sectors at a time.”

Traditions and Hope already has a track record of success. Besides Tractors for Peace, it addresses education, medical and sustainable development.

It already has improved conditions in medical facilities in Ghana and other countries, Gene Chase says.

“A case of bleach is high-tech to them,” Kristi Chase says. “When we went back, they were so excited to show us what they were doing with something as simple as bleach.”

Organizers think Tractors for Peace program can deliver similar results.

People who donate equipment can be as involved as they want to be, according to Gene Chase.

After making their donation, they can follow it online, as it stops at a vocational school in Wisconsin or Illinois for refurbishing, and see it in use by local farmers in Ghana, the Maldives or the Caribbean.

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