Dinah & Zack


Special Series: Twelve Canadians

Devoted to Development

By David Kattenburg

Who exactly coined the phrase “Think globally, act locally” is a matter of dispute. Dinah Ceplis and Zack Gross certainly exemplify the philosophy in action.

Dinah is a  Minnedosa, Manitoba-based adult educator, agricultural extensionist and master gardener. Over her many years of work with the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the Canadian Society of Extension, the Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, Assiniboine Community College, and the Brandon-based Marquis Project, she has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable agriculture, rural community empowerment, and the empowerment of youth and women, in both rural Africa and Manitoba.


For the past two decades, Dinah has been traveling back and forth between southwestern Manitoba and northwestern Tanzania, among other locations in that remarkable continent.

Tanzania’s second city, Mwanza, on the southern shore of Lake Victoria, has become her second home for up to three months each year. A half-hour drive west of Mwanza (along a road once pockmarked with holes two or three feet deep, but which the Chinese have probably paved by now), Dinah works closely with the Tanzanian Society for Agricultural Education and Extension (TSAEE), volunteering her project development acumen to women, youth, and people of all ages living with HIV-AIDS, but also just hanging out and gardening.

Read more about Dinah Ceplis’ accomplishments here and here.

Then there’s Zack Gross. Zack Gross is your quintessential white-bearded activist who’s been fighting the good fight for many years. Zack helped found The Marquis Project back in the seventies (“Linking Manitobans with the Developing World”), a Brandon-based group inspired by the think global, act local notion, and by the potent symbolism of Marquis wheat (pronounced mar-kwis) — a hard spring wheat variety which helped open up the Canadian prairies for settlement in the early twentieth century.

Zack was Marquis’ Executive Director between 1979 and 2004. In the decade since he was put out to pasture, Zack has kept himself busy in numerous ways: as the Fair Trade Outreach Coordinator and Overseas Projects Officer for the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation; teaching courses on international development for Winnipeg’s Menno Simons College; pounding out a column entitled “Small World” for the Brandon Sun; distributing fair trade products in the little town of Gimli, on the edge of Lake Winnipeg (pictured below).

As if life in the pasture were too bucolic, Zack has come up with a series of ‘informal’ activities to keep him and others busy. Among these: attempting to spearhead a Grumpy Old Men’s Group in Winnipeg. Success has been tempered by the fact that even grumpy old men have busy schedules.

Zack Gross actually has a website.


>Twelve Canadians is a multimedia series about women and men who’ve been devoting their lives to social, economic or environmental justice, and to the healthy development of Canadian communities and the world. Each episode examines a specific issue or situation, through the voices of people who’ve been active in that area. Lots more than just twelve. Thanks to the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Autoworkers Union for their generous support. Thanks as well to CKUW, University of Winnipeg Radio, and CFUV, at the University of Victoria.

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