Farming for the Future

| |

Andrew did not always consider himself a farmer. 

Like others in his rural Malian village of Vanekuy, he grew up eating food grown on his parents’ land, yet he considered farming to be “a poor man’s occupation.” 

There were simply too many farmers he knew who struggled to meet their families’ needs.

Andrew’s observations demonstrate a sad reality. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 70 percent of the world’s food-insecure people live in rural areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These are farming families who grow food on small plots of land. They work hard every day, yet are unable to feed their families sufficiently.

In many cases, these small-holder farmers have been growing the same crops on the same plot of land for generations. As a result, the land has become less and less fertile.

Farmers sometimes turn to expensive chemical fertilizers as a solution to this problem, but without proper training in how to use these chemicals, farmers can end up burning their crops and further depleting the soil.

Erratic weather patterns complicate matters and make it even more difficult to grow food. As a result, farmers across the developing world are finding it harder and harder to get by each year.

Instead of farming, Andrew aspired to be a builder. As he grew up, he cultivated his construction skills. By the time he was 46 years old, he had a reputation as an expert house builder and was the preferred builder in his village.

Andrew also raised some food on a small quarter-acre lot, but it was not nearly enough to feed his family. That meant that he had to earn sufficient income as a builder to purchase food for his family in addition to clothing and other items. This was too difficult.

World Renew has been working in communities like Andrew’s for more than 50 years. “During that time, we have learned that investing in farmers can be a key to eliminating hunger,” said Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, director of World Renew-Canada.

“God was the first farmer who tended the world he created and then made Adam and Eve to continue this caretaking role,” Kaastra-Mutoigo added.

“When we remind people of the good gift of creation that God has given us and give farmers training and support to improve their skills, we’ve seen that they can quickly improve their lives and better feed their families. They also provide a food surplus to sell at area markets. What’s more, these men and women often become leaders who can help their entire communities change for the better.”

Andrew’s story is a great example. A few years ago, he joined an agriculture training program offered by World Renew’s local church partner. There he met Nathan, a man from Vanekuy who had been trained by World Renew to be a pilot farmer. Nathan used his plot of land to demonstrate new and improved farming methods. 

When that year’s crop was harvested, Nathan’s field showed a significant improvement over the previous year’s yield even though the harvest in neighboring fields was poor.

“We all learned through Nathan’s training workshops to produce a sustainable fertilizer for the soil and wanted to become like him,” said Andrew. 

Andrew decided to try the new composting techniques on his quarter-acre of land. He was surprised when he harvested more than double his previous crop yield.

“I decided to quit construction work and focus on my farm,” he said. “I collected a lot of cow dung and other compostable material and cleared more land to expand my fields from a quarter-acre to six acres.”

On this newly expanded farm, Andrew grew cotton and sesame to sell as cash crops in addition to maize and vegetables for his family’s consumption. The results were dramatic.

“I have secured my family against hunger,” Andrew said of the $208 profit he made from his cash crops. He added, “For the first time in my life, I have filled my second grain silo with food for my family. I just thank the Lord.”

 


Mushrooms Help Villagers Dare to Dream
When you live in a remote part of rural India, dreaming about improving your future can seem like a waste of time. For 32 people in Adro Pahar village, however, such dreams recently became a reality—thanks to mushrooms.

Adro Pahar is a tiny village in Northern India that is home to eight families—32 people—who make their living by farming on the hilly slopes around their community. Their main crop is cowpeas, but they also grow maize and millet.

“The families in Adro Pahar are very hard-working people, and they do all they can to grow enough to maintain their families,” said World Renew staff member Kohima Daring. “They had dreams of increasing their incomes and improving their lives, but no matter what they did, their yields were not enough to change their standard of living.”

All that changed when people decided to take a chance on mushrooms. In October 2013, World Renew’s partner, the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR), went to Adro Pahar to talk to the villagers about their dreams. EFICOR staff suggested that people try growing mushrooms—a crop that could grow well in their challenging environment and could also be sold for a profit in town.

“At first the people were hesitant,” said Daring. “Mushrooms had never been grown in this community, and growing them would take a leap of faith.”

Finally two women came forward and agreed to use part of their income and property to invest in growing mushrooms. EFICOR staff provided them with training to get started, and the women’s mushroom farm became a demonstration plot for others in the village to learn how mushroom farming could work.  

The mushrooms grew quickly. Soon people from neighboring villages were coming to the women to purchase mushrooms. That convinced the women to stick with mushroom farming and dedicate more of their time and land to it.

Recently the women were invited to participate in a farm science fair where they displayed their mushrooms and talked about how the mushrooms were grown. The women learned that there is a huge demand for mushrooms in the regional market. They began transporting their mushrooms for sale at the market, and their income has soared.

Today, the people of Adro Pahar have begun large-scale mushroom cultivation. What’s more, they have found new hope for the future.

“They are beaming with dreams about improving their village and trying new things,” said Daring. “You could say that their dreams have mushroomed!”

―Kristen deRoo VanderBerg

 

Support Farmers on World Hunger Sunday

World Hunger’s 35th Annual World Hunger Campaign materials are now available. This year’s campaign is rooted in Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

By participating in the campaign, you and your congregation will be reminded that food is a great gift from God. You will learn from global farmers who can teach us much about being aware of God’s goodness and praising him for the rain, sun, soil, seeds, and tools that make each day’s food possible.

You will also grow in your knowledge of the challenges farmers in developing countries face as they work to produce enough food to feed their families, and you will be inspired to take action to help them.

World Hunger Sunday is November 2, 2014, but churches can choose to participate at any time of the year. To learn more, visit worldrenew.net/worldhunger.

  
Pray for World Renew

  • Thank God for the farmers who grow our food.
  • Thank God for the soil, sunshine, and rain that make that food grow.
  • Ask God to be with the billions of people around the world who make their living as farmers, especially small-scale farmers who go hungry for part of the year and who are vulnerable to drought and disaster.
  • Ask God for sunshine and rain this growing season to nourish fields and for bountiful harvests.
  • Ask God to be with World Renew and its 78 church partners around the world as they work with farmers to help them improve their lives.

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

X