Rorisang “Rori” Moliko works hard helping to plant more than 50 varieties of pumpkins in the green house at Willow View Farms in Abbotsford.
Although pumpkins are a common crop in Lesotho where Rori comes from, corn is what most farmers grow. But Rori is learning new things at Willow View and dreams what he will do when he returns home after his year here.
“I am learning so many skills,” he says. “I want to do more – I am encouraged to be a farmer.”
Rori is a participant with Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) International Volunteer Exchange Program. IVEP is a vocational and cultural exchange program for young adults aged 18 to 30.
People from 30 countries around the world come to North America for one year to live and learn. Participants are billeted with families and gain vocational skills through a volunteer work placement.
For Rori, that placement is at Willow View Farms, a small-scale fruit and vegetable farm owned by Murray and Cheryl Siemens who attend South Abbotsford MB Church and have been farming since 1991.
Murray, who has a degree in geography, loves farming but he also loves sharing his knowledge, so when the opportunity came to take on an IVEPer, he was excited.
“I really wanted to do this. I can’t go somewhere to teach farming practices because I’d have to leave my own farm but to have IVEPers come to me is ideal,” he says. “A lot of what we do here is small-scale farming – some marketing as well – all skills that are transferable to Lesotho.”
Back home in Lesotho, Rori was already involved in farming, working for an organization focused on conservation agriculture called Growing Nations.
In Abbotsford, Rori has learned new skills – everything from planting to grafting and pruning, tractor driving to juice making.
He’s considering introducing new crops into the market when he has his own farm.
Cheryl says that while she was hesitant at first, the experience of having an IVEPer has been a rich one. Rori is their second IVEP participant, their first one was also from Lesotho.
“The last two years have made me so grateful,” she says. “It has totally enriched our lives. I have two daughters, now I have two sons!”
Murray knows that the biggest challenge for Rori when he goes home will be the capital needed to purchase land. He hopes that the next step will be to find a way to help farmers like Rori to get a start.
In the meantime, Rori knows that he‘ll have to work hard to earn enough money to purchase his own farm but he’s not afraid of hard work. He’s also encouraged by the fact that he is already making a difference in his community.
“My friends look to me as a leader now,” he says. “I think they will have even more respect for me (when I return) because I am thinking in a different way.”
To learn more about MCC’s IVEP program, visit ivep.mcc.org.