Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thousands of Visitors

This year marked the seventh year that we have hosted a Farming God’s Way Kiosk at the National Agriculture Show here in Uganda. At our kiosk we also had an amazing garden which made for a great spot where many people could stop by and talk to us about Farming God’s Way.
Setting up for the show. Our maize is on the right with three rows of beans/
It was easy this year, to attract visitors, as we had some of the largest maize (corn for flour) in the show. In fact many said they thought it was the biggest at the Show! Glory to God! If you want to attract farmers in Africa, grow big attractive maize. It’s the staple crop here and most farmers appreciate a good yield of maize. I estimated our yield to be about 3T/acre which is 7.5T/ha. This is quite good and is easily 5-10 times more than what most farmers get here in Uganda (Sub-Saharan yield are around 350kg/ha). In fact, this year, it is almost only our Farming God’s Way farmers in various communities across Uganda who have yielded crop this last season – most crops dried up as the rains ended early. Most maize yields will be 0kg/Ha this year!

Klint Ostermann, a friend from Vocare ministries, explaining Farming God's Way
I man the kiosk with many other trainers from around Uganda. We usually need 3 to 4 trainers at the kiosk at a time to handle all of our visitors. My good friend Andrew Wandera took much of the week to be at the kiosk as I was busy with Jane in theHospital. Andrew works for a great organization called Amazima ministries across the Nile river where he and his farm staff train and follow up over 100 farmers using Farming God’s Way. It’s great to have my Ugandan friends explaining how to farm to their Ugandan brothers and sisters.This is really "Farmer helping Farmers!'

Andrew Wander teaching fellow farmers
Some of the crowds at the show -- this wasn't even a busy day!
The agriculture show is visited by thousands of visitors each day – I would guess some of the peak days got to 15-20,000 people within the show grounds. We had a steady stream of visitors wondering what it meant to “Farm God’s Way”. It was a great chance to point people to what it means to follow God’s directives, through His word, the Bible in our lives. We explain how to observe His Creation and follow His Word to be able to live in the abundant life that Christ has promised.

Most people can’t believe that we didn’t till (plough/turn the soil) to prepare our land. I have a selection of photos prepared for them to see how we prepare our garden without tilling the land. Then the next biggest eye-opener to them is the value of God’s blanket (mulch). We get these ideas from God's "gardens"; in most of creation the soil is covered with dead and dry leaves, twigs and grass which has died and fallen on top of the soil. We also observe that God doesn't disturb the soil by inverting it in Creation -- God doesn't plough! God’s blanket is the crop insurance that farmers need; it protects their soil from erosion and moisture evaporation, additionally it eventually rots and becomes humus and also adds biodiversity to the soil biological life. We estimate that a good rain can be stored under a good blanket cover for even more than a month. Those who had God's blanket this season were the one's likely to survive the drought.

By the time the show was done we had handed out hundreds of brochures, sold scores of our affordable Field Guides (at less than a dollar each) and we had received thousands of visitors to our kiosk. Some have signed up for our upcoming Uganda NationalTraining Event in Kampala this week and will learn more about Farming God’s Way.

look at the size of that maize!
Thanks for all you do in helping us to be herewith the farmers of Uganda. By God’s grace, and the power of His word, we are making a physical and spiritual difference in their lives.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

We're feeling sick; please pray

Hello friends,  I'd like to be writing to you about how the Farming God's Way kiosk was at the Agricultural show recently but that will have to wait. I'm quite sick and don't have much energy.

Please pray for us. Most of us have been hit by a strong flu virus. Only Albert and Isaiah have not been down yet. Jane was hospitalised a couple days last week with an infection and extremely bad back spasms making even breathing difficult. I've never seem her in so much pain! In fact she remembers little of last Tuesday. Please pray for her full recovery.

Simply, we'd love your prayers for our health. I'm in charge of our national training this coming week and I need to recover quickly.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Africa doesn’t need more tractors; it needs better farmers.

A productive crop of Amaranth with some of our young farmers Stephen and Emma.

It is a common misconception that due to Africa’s low agriculture output the way forward is to mechanize and “get serious” with farming by getting bigger and better equipment. This is the common belief held by governments and NGO’s alike on the continent. Even banks push farmers towards getting loans for the big shiny tractors!

This is a horrible idea for many reasons.

Firstly, big Equipment is costly, farmers will be put into long term debt trying to afford expensive equipment. Once in debt the farmer will become like western farmers, putting his attention on gaining credit and not on maintaining soil fertility. He will then need increase his land size in order to have a higher chance of paying off his debt. This leads to the next problem…

Problem number two. Big equipment needs big land to cover the cost of purchasing it, paying the interest to the bank and covering high maintenance costs. Thus farmers (or worse, large corporations) will try to buy up large tracts of land. This is where things get really bad. Africa is farmed by about 750,000 small hold farmers who mostly use a hoe. When you buy out these farmers (after preaching to them the gospel of Big Agriculture) from their land they become dis-enfranchised; people without land. When a small scale farmers sells his land he also sells his grandchildren’s inheritance and he also becomes a manual labourer working on the land he once owned making minimal money with no control over his future. Disenfranchised people become factory workers and employees with very little hope of ever coming out of poverty with life-long minimum wages. 

Thirdly big equipment is often destructive to soil and the environment leading to lower yields and lower income. The plough causes huge amounts of erosion; sub-Saharan erosion rates are 50 -220 MT/Ha. It has been said that Africa’s largest export is soil – and we don’t get a coin from it! Many farmers in Africa don’t realize that when they get new equipment their fertility will go down through intensive soil inversion. Soil inversion causes water loss, carbon loss, fertility loss through oxidation, UV degradation and the loss of volatile nutrients to the atmosphere. With big equipment taking up a large part of their earnings, causing unplanned soil degradation farmers will be left with less to put on their table and in their bank accounts. Unprofitable farming pushes people back towards selling off their land in hopelessness, thus putting them back into the previously discussed position of being dis-enfranchised.

For now we'll just stick to those three reasons (there's more!). Let's get to the answer.

The answer is simple: teach people how to farm better with the equipment they have on the land they have. This won’t line the pockets of politicians, technocrats and big agriculture business so you won’t hear a lot about it but it’s the answer. In most cases God has already place all of the resources needed to farm within the rural areas of Africa. By teaching farmers how to be careful and intentional with their planting and cultivating methods a farmer’s yield can easily increase five times. YES! Five times in one season! How can this happen? By NOT ploughing, planting carefully, putting locally available (read free) organic inputs at the base of the plant, before the (locally sourced) seed is in the ground and by mulching a farmer can have a well fed, stress free plant which will give him high yields at little cost, with NO debt load and with piece of land now increasing in fertility.
How do you know you ask? I know because I used to work on a large bank-bound farm in the west and now I teach small scale farmers who are coming out of poverty and low yields by using Farming God’s Way. It’s amazing to watch the transformation take place on a farm when people put into practice the simple principles of Farming God’s Way. I’ve seen it time and time again where a farmers goes from barely surviving to having productive fields that feed their families and put money in their pocket. Here’s a few pictures that show the great crops that people now experience.

If you’d like to read more about how Africa suffers from dependence on things like equipment and poor agriculture practice and what the answers look like have a look at the Farming God’s Way Trainer’s Reference Guide. It contains lots of stats and references to keep you informed on topic.

If you'd like to be part of the work we do in Uganda we need more supporters to keep us here on the field.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Helping people the hard way

In the west we are often bombarded with the various needs that we see online or in the news. We often want to do something about the difficulties we see people in;  online giving and credit cards have made it extremely easy to respond quickly to the dire need we see. A hurricane victim needs shelter and a new start, a refugee needs safety and protection, a drought  stricken nation needs food. We are able to meet many of these needs by making a donation. It is amazing how quickly people are able to respond with tangible help with the modern ability to make online donations and send off a cheque. 

As children of God we are called to look after the poor and care for their needs. This may not be new information but I think we have fallen into a large trap if we think we have followed Christ's command by simply writing a cheque or making an online donation. 

Have you every realized how personal and raw it gets when we start reading God's Word and trying to truly implement what it says? 

Our work here in Uganda has to do with helping the poor through training and teaching rural farmers (who make u about 75% of sub Saharan population in Africa). They are the rural poor people of Africa; overlooked, overworked and ironically underfed. When learning how to help these poor people we look to Isaiah 58 and learn what God expects of his people in the "True Fast". This is an amazing chapter where God opens up His heart to His people to show them what He really wants from them. He wants a people who worship him in the reality of how they live out their lives not just in the outward spiritual practices like fasting and public prayer.

As you read it have a look at how personal God wants us to get with the poor.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

If you think that is just for the Old Testament look at what our practical brother James writes in the New Testament:

 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I'm preaching at myself here; I don't like my home to be invaded by a stranger and have my time interrupted by someone who is not part of my "to do" list for the day. But God wants to interrupt me -- invade my life-- so that I can share in the bounty that He has given me. When we let poor and needy into our lives not only do they receive the physical help they need, but we are able to enter into a relationship with them and impart life skills and wisdom from God's Word which is needed for them to avoid poverty and dependency in the future. 

On top of getting is involved in people lives we will get to experience the most wonderful thing of all -- God' blessing! Look at how Isaiah 58 continues as God explains what will happen when we open up our homes and share our bread.

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

Online donations and cheques are greatly needed for the work of God to continue but let's not let it be a quick fix for avoiding the deep and personal involvement that God calls us to with the poor of this earth. We're priveledged to work with great people from all over Africa who know what it means to get involved with the poor rural farmers by working right alongside of them to see transformation.
A great team of Farming God's Way trainers who help the poor all over Africa.