SAVING AFRICA THROUGH FARMING
From Top : Headman, Mike, Dan. Bottom – Robson, Nimisha
Two years ago my daughter Liana went thru a course in Cape Town, South Africa, called Farming God’s Way. At the end of it she was so excited it is reported she proclaimed to the world, “I’m gonna save Africa thru farming!” I was not there – I am a simple reporter.
I am now in Harrare, Zimbabwe – a land of much heartache and destruction because of political despotism – sitting in the same conference (though now they call it Foundations for Farming), and feeling the same energy and optimism that popped Liana’s cork.
Western methods of farming are destroying Africa. There is a new technology required here where slash and burn methods, severe erosion, and soil nutrient depletion have made plowing and even commercial fertilizer application counterproductive (I am trying to be gentle on you farmers – my father in law was one!)
Studies have shown that on a plowed field with 4 degree slope, when a heavy rain comes it actually packs the soil and forms a barrier against water penetration, resulting in a 90% runoff of water and 28 tons of soil loss per hectare. Where the same sloped field that has the natural mulch of leaves and last year’s residue still on it, there is only 6% water runoff, 94% water retention with minimal soil loss.
One of the main foundations propounded here is to build up the natural aerobic bacteria in the top few inches of the soil with compost, mulch and natural manure, while at the same time increasing moisture retention crucial for non-irrigated farming. These practices are – I was going to say “foreign” – but only because foreign farming practices from the West have now become the norm and rule for rural Africa, and the idea of putting a seed in a single hole in a field littered with stalks and leaves has passed from memory.
But all of this good stuff pales in comparison to the main foundation stone of this ministry – as you are teaching people to farm you are teaching them to live. You are giving them hope for a brighter tomorrow, confidence that conformity to the Word of God has practical results of blessing in life, and instilling disciplines that will carry over to every aspect of living : 1. Do everything on time. 2. Do everything to excellence. 3. Do everything with no wastage. 4. Do everything with joy.
The heart of this movement (and it is a movement – whole sections of Zim are practicing this method and being discipled by trainers) is caring for the poor. Brian, the founder, was a very influential and wealthy farmer in Zim. One day he drove into the poor areas of Zim and saw something he had never seen in his life – rife poverty. He came back shaken. He saw Isaiah 58 in a new way. He, a normal affluent Westerner, was seeking God with his voice, but grieving God in his disregard for the poor. Until he and the other white affluent Zim farmers would “divide your bread (and fields) with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house…” they were on shaky ground with God and their fellow countrymen. So he began telling the political leaders and other white farmers that if they do not share their land and train the poor, it will all be taken from them. And now it has – the white farmers have nothing more in Zim. And Brian has devoted his life to bringing people out of poverty by training in Jesus living and simple farming.
Brian says, “When God looks down from heaven his eyes go first to the poor, which of course are concentrated in this continent. He loves everyone, but has a special concern and focus of grace for the poor, as seen in Jesus’ mission statement in Lk 4 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor..” If you look at all the verses in the Bible about God caring for the poor, our mandate to care for the poor, and the condemnation of those who selfishly ignore them, you see a vivid photograph of the heart of God. All thru history it is the poor who have responded with the grace of God to revival fires, and gradually their faith, impacting their lifestyle, makes them prosper.
When I see the decline of the church in America and the general lack of concern for the poor among Christians, I feel the ire of the Father is breaking upon us.
We splurged on this conference – bringing three of our team (thanks Regina for staying home with the chickens) and two from the village (including the headman!). But as I see the two village guys soaking up not only the new way of farming, but a more vital faith as well, and some holes poked in their animistic traditions – I see God is setting some things in place for a new day in Singanga Village!
Pray that God will send us a champion for this whole farming track. The headman wants to designate one of his three gardens for a training plot, and we will begin with the poor and the widows and AIDS affected in the village as our first trainees. But this could easily go to all of the 16 villages in our area as well – if we had the workers. Oh will you pray with us for God to touch hearts.
Here is some interesting smoldering compost :
- Did you know moringa plants (thanks to Chris Cornwell I have 9 such plants in my garden!) administered to an AIDS patient can take the critical blood count from 200 to 800 and restore some degree of health?
- There are some simple oil presses that can be used in the village to make their cooking oil from some kinds of plants.
- Did you know Artimesia herbs can treat malaria effectively?
- I think I may have found a good financial and business training course geared to simple village people or African interns who want to join us.
- Did you know that eating 3 worms can heal whatever ails you? I heard two amazing testimonies to this by a vermiculture fanatic (Nick – I am a convert!)
- One creative way to help the poor is to start a Maize (corn) Bank – those who are being discipled in farming and Jesus Living, can deposit part of their harvest into the bank, to withdraw in the form of seed and manure at time for planting – a secure savings plan for many who struggle to save anything.
- A sub topic on this conference is Foundations for Family. If Africa is to come out of poverty it may first take a renewal of faith in God and secondly, a renewal in farming. But just as important, is a renewal in family. There are so many strong traditions in African culture that undermine true family life, and they must be confronted as sin – even if they are cultural. I am considering starting a family life bible study after God’s Story. Also please pray for a champion to carry this message into the villages.
After looking at these horrible pictures you will be glad to know that our recent arrivals from Grand Rapids Michigan – Michael and Cynthia – brought a nice little camera with them for us! Thanks Jesus! Next blog will look better.
Love you all. dan