A joint US/Canadian air shipment of $3.9 million in humanitarian aid departs San Francisco International Airport for North Korea on Saturday, March 31. The shipment, coordinated by Mercy Corps, includes 66 tons of apple seedlings, poplar cuttings, vegetable seeds, and farm equipment. The items are designated for Mercy Corps’ experimental farm, located in South Pyongan Province, which serves as a model for long-term agricultural development in North Korea.
Contributions to the shipment come from across the United States and Canada, including:
- Vegetable seeds from the Beaverton Rotary Club of Oregon
- Fruit tree seedlings from Meadow Lake Nursery and Huserik Brothers Nursery of Oregon
- Fertilizer, seeds, a tractor, and shoes from Global Aid Network of Vancouver, British Colombia
- Medical supplies from Northwest Medical Teams International of Oregon
- Poplar cuttings from Lincoln Oaks Nursery of North Dakota, Lee Nursery of Minnesota, Green Wood Resources and Potlatch of Oregon, and the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Committee of Saskatchewan, Canada
- Alder seeds from Iowa State University of Ames, Iowa
- Athletic shoes from Nike of Beaverton, Oregon
The shipment will be transported on a Boeing-747 operated by Evergreen International Aviation of McMinnville, Oregon. The plane will stop in Japan for refueling and will land in Pyongyang on Sunday, April 1. This is the third partnership between Mercy Corps and Evergreen to deliver humanitarian aid goods to North Korea.
“There is a great deal of good will on the part of North Americans who wish to support North Korea’s efforts to develop an agricultural system that can feed its people,” says Mercy Corps’ Co-founder and Senior Vice President Ellsworth Culver. Culver and Lawrence Ho, counsel to Global Aid Network, will accompany the shipment.
This shipment comes one year after Mercy Corps launched “Operation Appleseed” that brought 10,000 Oregon apple trees to a model farm in South Onchon Province in North Korea. In the year since, two groups of agricultural experts from Oregon traveled to North Korea to monitor the progress of the orchard, and reported it is thriving with the careful tending by the farmers. “The experts were impressed with how carefully each tree was wrapped with straw to protect it against an unusually cold winter,” reports Culver, noting that the trees survived beautifully. “This underscores once again that North Koreans have great capacity for agricultural programs; these linkages with the outside world will assist them in the development of a functioning agricultural system.”
Mercy Corps has been working in North Korea since 1996 to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of the food shortages that have plagued the nation due to years of flooding and drought. Mercy Corps has shipped over $9.4 million worth of critically needed medicines, medical supplies and food, and distributed and monitored 230,000 metric tons of US food aid as part of a Consortium of Private Voluntary Organizations. These humanitarian shipments are a key component of Mercy Corps’ longer-term goal of assisting in the rehabilitation of North Korea’s agricultural infrastructure while supporting mutually beneficial exchange and cooperation between US and North Korean counterparts.