Riding for female farmers

Ontario duo passes through South Delta during the early days of a cross-country bike trek

Two women biking their way across the country to raise money to empower female farmers in Africa made a stop in Ladner this week.

Sarah French and Mary Fehr, who both hail from Ontario, started their cross-Canada trek, Bike to Grow, Monday in Victoria. After getting off the ferry in Tsawwassen, the pair rode to Ladner where they spent the evening before heading to Vancouver on Wednesday.

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French said they dipped their back tires in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria and they plan to dip their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean when they arrive in St. John's, Newfoundland in September.

French and Fehr are riding to raise funds and awareness for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates' (MEDA) Greater Rural Opportunities for Women Project.

The money raised will help female farmers in Ghana learn better techniques to increase their yields as well as how to explore new ways to make money, such as tending livestock and poultry.

Both women have worked with MEDA in the past and met two years ago at an orientation session in Waterloo, Ontario. After the session they went their separate ways - Fehr was doing impact assessment work in Tanzania, while French was in Nicaragua working in sustainable development and agriculture.

Both said they witnessed great inequalities between men and women and when they returned to Canada, decided they wanted to do something to give back to MEDA.

Fehr, however, wasn't initially on board with the idea of cycling across the country. It was all French's idea.

"It's kind of been a passion of mine to ride across Canada," she said.

"I absolutely did not want to do that," Fehr said with a smile.

Eventually, she came around.

"I thought this could really be a cool way to give back to MEDA and a really cool summer."

The pair began training and planning a year ago, and, with a goal of raising $150,000, set out this week. The pair will ride an average of 100 kilometres a day and has already raised $50,000. Together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, all contributions will be matched nine times.

Fehr and French will be chronicling their journey online at www.biketogrow.com.

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