The following reports are from our new African friends who are heavily involved in teaching national Africans the proper ways of farming that, if followed, will lift them out of poverty.
The three Zambians; Alexander, Graham and Tyson are our Zambian friends we have known now for two years.
Foundations for Farming Champions Conference March 2011- some impressions.
I attended the conference with Patrick Cairns and three farmers (Alexander, Graham and Tyson) from Sons of Thunder (SoT) mission farm just outside Livingstone, Zambia.
It took me almost a month to get as far as writing this up, and when I started, I realised that it is not possible to accurately describe the impact of this visit on paper or even in person. The conference impacted me on various levels- meeting Brian and Cath Oldreive for the first time, spending time with people who are living their lives faithfully dedicated to the poor, experiencing the true humility of the great people of God, seeing how all of this impacted the Zambian guys, learning technical farming “stuff” and having God deal with personal matters in a deep and irreversible way.
We were all blown away by the demonstration of incredibly high standard of farming at Westgate, especially when realising that it is achievable by anyone who faithfully works the land on time, to a high standard, without wastage and above all with true joy. Spending time on this farm impacted and encouraged my Zambian friends in no small way. Personally I was again encouraged to continue teaching this wonderful method to the poor.
Over three days we heard how each topic discussed, even the technical farming topics, refer back to Jesus and the gospel. We heard amazing testimonies from people faithfully working their land. We listened and were encouraged by Scott Marques’ exposition of Nehemiah. We heard Brian’s heart for the restoration of agriculture in Zimbabwe and his perspective on the future. We heard about storing your hard-earned crop safely as well as about chronological Bible storytelling. We saw and heard why Darrel and Hazel Edwards are so passionate about compost when they shared about the “treasures in the darkness”. We all learnt the basics again during the runoff demonstrations and when Johann van der Ham led the well watered garden demonstration.
Some photographs to share the things we did and saw:
Graham, Alex, Patrick & Tyson ready for the long road trip to Harare.
Driving into Westgate: An amazing sight.
Looking closer, one sees many examples of excellence. Here is a well watered garden plot with no weeds and very good mulch cover:
The vegetable plots immediately got my attention:
Some more crops:
The Zambian guys at the well watered garden demonstration:
Alex and Tyson and Graham (below), listening attentively:
Alex showing that the SoT farmers can handle a hoe:
Johann van der Ham and Brian Oldreive at the demonstration:
And, finally, even though Patrick is short, this maize is REALLY tall!
Once again thanks to everyone who contributed to make this visit to Harare a reality for the Sons of Thunder farmers.
A REPORT ON MARAMBAJANE AGRICULTURAL PROJECT IN MOZAMBIQUE WITH WORLD HOPE INTERNATIONAL – 14 February – 18 February 2011
This is a report by Patrick Cairns of Songs of Joy Agricultural Trust having been requested by World Hope International (WHI) to assist with their agricultural program with the Marambajane Agricultural Association.
When I wrote my last report after my previous visit to Marambajane, I began the report by stating my greatest concern about the people of Marambajane – their deep entrenchment in dependency on others. This dependency was again evident in my recent trip to work with the people and with WHI on their agricultural program. On our first day in the field we were approached by the community to help them with finances to purchase and repair the irrigation system that was installed for them some years back.
Again I refer back to my first report where I stated the following: “Their implied expectation that we would meet all their needs illustrates that they have become very dependent on man and not God. We need to be aware of this difficult yoke as dependency breeds passivity and ultimately a low self-esteem that will keep people in poverty and a disempowered state. It is God who is our provider and the source of everything we need to live happy and fulfilled lives. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says: ‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.’ Deuteronomy 8:18 says: ‘You shall remember the Lord your God; for it is He who gives you power to make wealth.’
The all-sufficiency of God to provide, and the God-given potential of an individual to be able to become independent and self-sufficient, purely through faithfully utilising what is in their hand, are central truths taught by Farming God’s Way (FGW). In August 2009, I was the leader of a group of trainers who taught the people of Marambajane FGW. This was a three day course facilitated by WHI. They have since then been trained three times, each time over several days, in all of the biblical, technological and management principles of FGW.
The community at Marmabajane have had very difficult conditions to face this season. The destructive floods that ravaged the region unfortunately did not help, and discouraged many. Marambajane is situated in a flood plain and the agricultural lands are certain to flood every 3 – 10 years. One needs to farm accordingly, knowing that floods will come and preparing oneself for this or alternatively be prepared to farm in different areas that do not have regular floods.
The request by the community for the staff of WHI to repair and set up the old irrigation system that was donated by another NGO was made with the evident expectation that such a step would “solve all their problems”. They also stated that they would be using conventional farming methods in the irrigated lands, their reasons being that they needed to establish food security as quickly as possible, because of the damage to the harvest caused by the floods.
I strongly disagree with this reasoning, that implies that FGW is too labour intensive and short on results to be utilised in a situation of agricultural shortfall. Firstly, FGW is a proven technology that triples crop yields and leads to all round better soils and healthier crops, which are able to combat diseases and drought. If one does FGW under irrigation the results are amazing. Even without irrigation, FGW has proven itself with many testimonies of those using the method during periods of actual drought, who have harvested more than double that of their compatriots employing conventional farming methods. The community did agree to carry on doing FGW, but only in certain areas and at a later stage after they had finished harvesting the lands under irrigation.
The question that must also be asked with regard to the irrigation system is why it did not work before to lift the people out of poverty, and why it would work now. In my travels all over Africa I have seen irrigation systems and tractors costing millions of dollars lying broken in the fields or idle in a shed. In fact in Port Elizabeth where I live there is an organisation that gave millions to build state-of-the-art greenhouses and they now lie in ruins because the people are fighting over who owns them. We have learnt that we need to start with the basics of what we have in our hands, and teach God’s way of living first, and then we work with the people that decide to walk in this way. The irrigation systems may or may not come later as we first learn to be faithful with the little that God has given us.
When WHI began their agricultural project with the people of Marambajane there were initially 20 volunteers who indicated their willingness to use FGW methods in collaboration with the organisation. It was decided to assign four farmers to one ½ hectare field, thus working and harvesting 5 fields in all among the 20 volunteers. The WHI report (Semi annual report July –Dec 2010) states that 16 farmers were involved in the preparation of the land at Marambajane using FGW methods, presumably then on four ½ hectare fields instead of the initially planned five. On this trip however, we discovered that only 3 farmers had prepared their fields, all in isolation. The size of their fields varied greatly and none of the 3 had prepared ½ a hectare. An unanswered question is what happened to the seed that was bought for the initial 20 farmers who were only allowed to receive seed if they used the FGW methodology? A total of 12.5kg of seed was meant to be given to each group of 4 farmers. It is likely that the seed was collected by the other volunteers who then dropped out of the program to follow their own agendas. Topdressing fertiliser, cups and teaspoons were also meant to be purchased and handed out to the groups, and it is not certain whether these were also collected by the missing volunteers.
The reasoning given around the community’s request for irrigation, their reluctance to use FGW methods, and the fact that more than ¾ of the volunteers committed to FGW were unaccounted for have confirmed the fact that the people have not accepted FGW and its principles, and seek to continue with conventional farming methods while paying lip service to FGW as the method endorsed by WHI, their chief funders. When asked directly, community members agree that FGW is an excellent method and really works. However, it is evident from their actions that the community is not fully persuaded by FGW, that they are not comfortable moving away from their established farming practices and that they wish to be funded as they continue with these.
The current project ends in 2012. My only recommendation is for WHI to appoint a FGW accredited trainer who would assist Macamo, the WHI agricultural supervisor, in the field for the duration of the preparation and planting season (September – November 2011). This person would help to mentor Macamo and “project manage” 10 farmers who are willing to implement FGW on their land. This person would need to help lay out every farm and be in the field every week assisting and guiding the 10 farmers through every step of the initial process. The farmers should rather cultivate a ¼ hectare each to a high standard and on time, in order to ensure that they would be successful. Three follow up visits would need to be done at critical stages of the maize growth cycle. These would include the following: 1) Thinning and topdressing, 2) Weeding and 3) Harvesting. Songs of Joy can assist in finding the right person if WHI would like to look into this recommendation
In conclusion, it is evident that the people of Marambajane are not adopting the method of FGW, and should they not respond to the above measures positively, it may be necessary to consider stopping the agricultural project in their area altogether before 2012 when the project is officially scheduled to end. I understand if this sounds harsh and I am genuinely concerned for the people of Marabajane but I would rather WHI use their funds elsewhere with a group that is willing to implement FGW. This is not easy for me to recommend but I am reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 6: v11 “and whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them”.
I would like to thank Tae Symons and the staff at WHI Mozambique for their assistance in this project. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with you and I wish you every success personally, and for the projects that you are involved in. May Gods purposes and plans be established in your lives.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any further queries and we as the Songs of Joy Trust thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with WHI and we hope to be able to be of assistance in the future.