Tag Archives: Fruit growing

A View over the River

The plan to monitor the transport of relief supplies ended at the Yalu, the border river between China and North Korea. We assume that the container with the proven baby food has reached its goal, the area around Yonsa.

Unfortunately, we cannot witness the distribution: After quite some back and forth, we were not given an entry visa. The precise reasons probably have little to do with the current situation and are not clear to me. Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed. I would have liked to explain the correct use of the nutrition on-site: something the recipients always appreciated. I would have liked to tell you about it as well. Now it is up to GAiN Germany to hold negotiations determining if further relief good transports are worthwhile and possible in the future.

I am already in Beijing when I find out that I would not be granted entry. To make the most of the extra time I still travel east to the border: From a reconstructed watch tower close to the Chinese border city of Dandong you have a wonderful view into North Korea: Fields with untiring workers plan ting corn, a couple of oxen or cows pulling a plow, a chugging tractor and a couple of villages in the distance.

Despite the harsh rhetoric in the media, despite the missile tests, it is downright peaceful here, everybody is busy doing their work. In contrast, the Chinese fields spread out behind my back. Close to the city they are covered in plastic or completely covered by green houses. I bless both sides of the river in my mind, I wish the people peace and well-being, that their work would feed them and they would enjoy it.

On a short boat trip on the river I witness Chinese tourists and their reaction to the North Koreans we see on our way: Some of them wave and smile at them, others call out a provocative “Hello” and less friendly words to the opposite bank. I feel like I am in the zoo: Observing North Koreans. I notice that most Chinese hardly know anything about their neighbors. They glance over the border curiously – but seem to have no interest in more.

Sharing Memories During 20-Year Celebration

In April a colourful mix of farmers, experts, sponsors, and deputies of the North Korean Embassy celebrated 20 years of successful collaboration between North Koreans and Swiss in the assembly room of the Reformed Church in Zweisimmen.

»Yun was just a good man. We could only communicate with a few words, but we got along with each other right from the beginning. He was interested in everything, took many notes and drew sketches. All of this in order to do things this way in North Korea, too,“ remembers farmer Walter Gobeli with enthusiasm. “When you meet him, please give him my kind regards!”

16 years ago, Walter Gobeli and his wife Erna were one of the courageous host families offering a North Korean agronomist practical training during the summer months.

After Yun’s departure trainees followed summer after summer, totalling almost one hundred. They wanted to transfer Swiss mountain farming knowledge to the mountainous areas of their country. Today cheese and yogurt are very popular in North Korea and are being produced in more than 300 small cheese dairies all over the country.

During the celebration Mr Ulrich Zeller, the mayor of Zweisimmen, as well as the Counsellor of the North Korean Embassy, praised this manifold and creative partnership. Host families told about their funniest but also most challenging experiences of two very different cultures sharing life.

Daniel gave some insight into life in North Korea today and Stefan and Anita Burckhardt shared the present key aspects of the project. Solemn alphorn tunes expressed what one cannot express in words: We want to be a blessing for the North Korean people and pray for their well-being.

Help for Self-help

In 1995 the North Korean UN ambassador turned to Agape international with the following request: “You are Christians, come and help us!” This request has grown into a multifaceted 20-year partnership that has shaped and changed both sides.

So this year we are looking back on our cooperation with North Korea and want to celebrate it with all who have faithfully supported this partnership. Therefore, in this and the next edition of Our Heart’s Concern, we will look back on some of the highlights of our project.

Following the request of the UN ambassador, the first few years were spent improving the food situation of the population. About 300 tons of rice was sent as an initial emergency aid. Soon it became clear that only a long-term help as in “help for self-help” would fundamentally and sustainably change the situation of the population. Together with experts from the North Korean Ministry of Agriculture, the Agriculture School Rheinhof and the Swiss Association of Mountain Agriculture (SAB) we started an agricultural development and partnership project in 1996.

The emphasis of our partnership until about 2006 were agricultural measures in forage production and grassland, as well as goat’s milk processing. Gras was needed for meat and milk. The good harvests in the following years, various projects of the UN and other relief and development organizations significantly contributed to the improved food situation of the population. With a new project management in 2006 the main focus of our involvement changed to and has remained in the area of alternative energy.

The aim of our involvement, namely, to promote the independence of the population has never changed and would have not been possible without the commitment of people that invested everything to reach this goal.


Dear readers,

I am reading about the 20-year history of the North Korea Project, as we want to celebrate the cooperation between Agape international and North Korea this year in April and August with a thanksgiving and remembrance celebration.

While reading about the past of this project I am amazed at how many people have invested themselves into the population of North Korea in the past 20 years; either as domain experts in the country itself or here in Switzerland as supporters and supervisors for interns and in transferring knowledge. We are also very grateful for all of your large and small donations that make this involvement possible in the first place.

This year we invite you to take a deeper look at the various projects, especially the production of the first sign language booklet, the support of the specialized internship in forage production and dairy farming, and the projects of the SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation). Especially since we are not able to live in North Korea ourselves at the moment, the people who can and are able to share some of their life with the population are precious to us.

We are pleased that you will again travel this journey with us this year.

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