TEMPLETUOHY woman Bríd Kennedy, who is based in Dublin, is the Regional Director of Concern Worldwide’s work in North Korea.
Bríd spent two weeks in August visiting Concern projects in the DPRK. The official name of the country is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, generally referred to, at least in the Western world, as North Korea.
Concern has been working in North Korea since 1998.
“A devastating cyclone hit the country in 1998 and the North Korean government invited in a number of non governmental organisations (NGOs), including Concern,” Bríd recalls.
“Concern is working in two provinces (Kangwon and North Hwanghae) in the south east of the country and is planning, provided permission is given, to work in another province, South Hwanghae.
“We are engaged in increasing agricultural production. For example, we are advising and helping poor people on the use of greenhouses and all year round growing crops that have more nutritional value such as soya beans and vegetables, as there is very little meat available to eat.
Part of the reasons for the chronic food insecurity in North Korea is due to the harsh winters experienced, lack of agricultural inputs such as greenhouses, mechanisation, food storage and food processing facilities.
Bríd continues, “We are using solar power to pump water to water towers, which then allow people access to clean drinking water. We are also using solar energy in greenhouses and hospitals and other agencies are now following our lead.
“Concern is promoting conservation agriculture. Our use of recycled organic waste through composting is proving very successful. We are also protecting sloping land from erosion and getting better yields from crops.
“While we are not involved in education, we are putting in toilets and water supply in social institutions such as schools, kindergartens and hospitals, which helps reduce the risk of diarrhoeal disease, which put children at risk,” Bríd says.
“North Korea is changing and they recognise that they have to change. These changes are coming about at an economic level. Street markets are appearing all over the country and this is something new.
“And I am convinced Concern is a key player in addressing basic livelihood needs of people,” Bríd explains.