When Justin Kadyeni looks over Thomas Tembo’s field, he sees manure, rotting leaves, the decaying stumps of harvested soy bean plants, and garbage—and he’s pleased.
Kadyeni is employed by the Reformed Church of Zambia, a partner of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). He and four colleagues work long hours, researching the best techniques being used by farmers throughout Zambia and then passing those techniques on to community volunteers.
The volunteers, in turn, teach people like Tembo how to improve their soil and increase their yields.
“Our goal is food security for Zambian farmers,” explains Kadyeni. “Our approach is to use volunteers to do the training.”
Kadyeni and his colleagues work alongside about 70 agriculture volunteers. Each volunteer has been handpicked by community leaders as someone who can read, write, and train others.
Kadyeni also requires that the volunteers be Christian and willing to work with the program for at least three years. In exchange for their participation, the volunteers receive a notebook, training materials, and a bicycle for transportation
At regular intervals Kadyeni’s team gathers the volunteers for instruction in the latest simple, affordable farming methods—such as using compost and green manures, new crop varieties, and improving crop spacing and irrigation. The volunteers return to their home communities and surrounding areas to teach the new techniques to others.
As a result, Kadyeni’s small staff of five is able to reach 384 communities—nearly 10,500 people—each year. When individuals such as Tembo begin using their new knowledge, the soil in their fields improves, and they are able to grow more food. In a country where 86 percent of people live below the poverty line, that is vital.
A Global Commitment
Kadyeni is not alone in his fight against hunger. In 2000, 189 world leaders agreed to the Millennium Development Goals—eight distinct, measurable, achievable goals aimed at cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.
The goals include achieving universal education, reducing child mortality, improving the lives of women, and decreasing the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Ten years later, we are seeing some signs of success. The United Nations Development Programme reported that, despite an overall increase in the number of school-aged children in the world, the number not in school fell to 73 million in 2006 from 103 million in 1999.
Similarly, in 2006 the number of deaths for children under the age of 5 dipped to below 10 million for the first time since mortality data have been gathered.
A Local Approach
While much of this success can be attributed to changes in government policy in developing countries and large-scale debt relief and foreign aid, Christian organizations such as CRWRC and their grassroots partners like Justin Kadyeni also play an important role.
CRWRC’s approach is to work with local churches and organizations to listen to people at the community level. This helps to identify the local obstacles that keep people in poverty.
The next step involves working alongside the community to develop solutions that use locally-available materials, simple technology, and local leadership. While this process takes time, it results in people improving their lives in permanent ways.
“Each community chooses what they want to implement as part of their training,” Kadyeni explains, speaking about the program in Zambia. “Then different plans are made for each program.
“For example, with the agriculture volunteers we’ve done training in technologies to improve soil, diversify crops, improve crop spacing, and make compost manure. We’ve also done leadership training and income-generation activities such as bee keeping and fish ponds.
“In many communities we use a farmer-field school model, where a piece of land is loaned by the chief or one of the group members. New technologies are used on that sample field, and the community learns by putting the teaching into practice.”
This seemingly simple approach has yielded great results. In Zambia, within three or four years the majority of participants “graduate,” meaning that they have increased their ability to grow food and are able to feed their families for the entire year.
CRWRC also sees another positive change: a growing openness among community members to learning about Christ.
While all of CRWRC’s programs are open to every person in the community, regardless of religious affiliation, and while proselytizing is not a component of any program, the expression of love given by local Christian churches is making an impact.
“In one village there was a man who was Muslim,” said Kadyeni. “He was curious about why others were involved in the training. He decided to join. He came to every training and didn’t miss a single one. At each training, the Bible was read and there was a time of praying and sharing.
“During the first year, this man didn’t implement any of the new technologies being taught. Those in his group who did implement them were able to see results. The next year, he decided to participate. He was a very successful farmer. By the time we graduated the community, he had given his life to Christ.”
The Work Continues
While much has been accomplished in the fight against poverty, we still have a long way to go to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Global leaders need to continue to fulfill commitments they made 10 years ago to increase foreign aid and improve governance in developing countries.
CRWRC and its partners will continue to fight global hunger through relationships on the local level, making a difference one person and one community at a time.
CRWRC at a Glance
Founded in 1962, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
works in 26 countries, plus areas that have recently suffered from disaster or conflict.
provides training and consultation to more than 104 local churches and community organizations.
provides immediate and long-term aid following disasters.
helped more than 1.6 million people improve their lives last year.
To learn more about the Millennium Development Goals, U.S. and Canadian commitments, and what you can do to pray for or advocate on behalf of the poor, please participate in Are You In?, CRWRC’s 2010 World Hunger Campaign. Materials are available through your church or online at www.crwrc.org/worldhunger.