CBCradio

July 06, 2009

Pt 1: Prairie Drought - Across the prairies, farmers are facing one of most severe droughts anyone can remember. Some say it's the worst in 50 years. And the effects are devastating. Many are already writing off their crops. Others wait anxiously for signs of rain, hoping they can avoid the same fate. The dry-spell is the worst in west-central Saskatchewan and central Alberta. But according to Canada's top weather man -- David Phillips from Environment Canada -- the prairies are parched, no matter where you look.

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Pt 2: God's Land - Documentary - Forty years ago, a group of Canadian Mennonites packed up and headed for Bolivia. They went in search of good farm land and isolation. And that's what they got. But now, their quiet, comfortable existence is being threatened. Last January, Bolivians voted in favour of a new constitution and a series of new laws on land ownership proposed by the country's President, Evo Morales.

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Today's summer guest host was Mellissa Fung.

It's Monday, July 6th.

U.S. President Barack Obama is in Russia today.

Currently ... And for the record ... No, he cannot see Sarah Palin from where he is standing.

This is The Current.

Prairie Drought - Farmer

Across the prairies, farmers are facing one of most severe droughts anyone can remember. Some say it's the worst in 50 years. And the effects are devastating. Many are already writing off their crops. Others wait anxiously for signs of rain, hoping they can avoid the same fate. The dry-spell is the worst in west-central Saskatchewan and central Alberta. But according to Canada's top weather man -- David Phillips from Environment Canada -- the prairies are parched, no matter where you look. We aired a clip.

Stewart Wells is still hoping he can salvage his crop. But he also says that thousands of other farmers in the region known as Canada's breadbasket have already lost theirs and that they need disaster assistance from Ottawa. Stewart Wells is the President of the National Farmers Union. He and his wife operate Penny Lane Organic Farms just east of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Prairie Drought - Researcher

The extreme dryness across the prairies is affecting everyone. Residents in many areas are facing restrictions on fires and watering. In Alberta, at least nine counties have declared states of emergency in response to the drought.

And cattle ranchers are also feeling the pinch due to poor pasture growth and a shortage of feed. Albert Wagner has a grain and livestock operation in Stony Plain, just west of Edmonton. His canola crop is behind schedule because of the drought and may end up yielding no harvest at all but he's most concerned about the impact on cattle feed. We aired a clip.

As Albert Wagner says, droughts can also hurt the national economy. The last time the Prairies went through a record dry spell -- from 2001 to 2002 -- the cost ballooned to an estimated 5.8 Billion dollars.

Which might be why so many people are taking note of what Dave Sauchyn has to say. He is a geography professor at the University of Regina and the Research Co-Ordinator at the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative. And he says weather patterns suggest that things could get worse -- a lot worse -- before they get better. Dave Sauchyn was in Regina.

God's Land - Documentary

Forty years ago, a group of Canadian Mennonites packed up and headed for Bolivia. They went in search of good farm land and isolation. And that's what they got. But now, their quiet, comfortable existence is being threatened. Last January, Bolivians voted in favour of a new constitution and a series of new laws on land ownership proposed by the country's President, Evo Morales.

According to one study, the majority of Bolvia's arable land is concentrated on just 700 farms, leaving many of the country's indigenous people with little or nothing. President Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous leader and he's vowed to change all that. And the Mennonites -- nearly ten thousand of them now -- worry that their land and their way of life might disappear as a result.

Freelance broadcaster Sarah Richards traveled to eastern Bolivia to visit those reclusive Mennonite communities. And she prepared the documentary, God's Land. It first aired on The Current in January, just two weeks before the referendum on Bolivia's new constitution.

Since then, Bolivians have voted in favour of the new constitution and the new laws on land ownership. The government of President Evo Morales has begun distributing land to indigenous communities over the past few months. The relations between the national government and the government of Santa Cruz are still tense. And the future of the Mennonite communities is still uncertain.

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