The Irish are a smilin'
On a recent trip to Kabale, Uganda, our team was heartily welcomed by Hilary Byorugunda, Regional Manager for GO Africa and Church of Uganda Father’s House. He also is a dedicated Trainer for an amazing agricultural program known as Farming God’s Way* that is cultivating the Father’s House garden. As we made our way to visit the children at the Father’s House, we were warmly greeted by Senior Mother, Lydia.
After customary Ugandan pleasantries, Hilary & Lydia began to share a bit of their local news. Recently, the region had suffered a freakishly, horrific storm. In fact, a huge hail storm covered the ground with a flash frozen white blanket (in equatorial Africa – YES). The resulting misfortune totally destroyed their entire, carefully cultivated crops. They lost everything. So, after much discussion, Lydia and the other Mothers decided to replant on the Father’s House plot of land and hope for the best. This time they planted Irish (as in a particular kind of potato). They prayed and asked God to heal the land and bless them with an abundant harvest. Hilary explained that the Father’s House garden, a one quarter acre, in good times should produce a yield of six large bags to feed the children living there.
What happened next was a complete and total surprise to me. Hilary and Lydia looked at each other and broke into beaming smiles and laughter. They took me by the hand and shared that they had something very special to show me. They ushered me toward the chapel/community center where they host large gatherings. I was to stand with my eyes closed at the threshold and wait. Then, they opened the doors and I opened my eyes. The sun was shining so brilliantly through the windows at first I couldn’t see anything. Then, I noticed the vast room was empty of most tables and chairs. At last, my eyes focused and I saw an incredible sight. The chapel was FULL! Every inch of the floor was covered by a raging sea of Irish potatoes. Thousands of potatoes—an amazing answered abundance—of Irish! An overwhelmingly delicious sight. Laughing aloud, Hilary exclaims, while a good harvest would have been six bags (as in ginormous bags that stand 4 feet tall—probably 52 gallons or more) there are more than 39 bags here! More spuds than can feed all 100 children of the Father’s House—even more than enough to sell their bumper surplus in the market! When storms rage and all seems lost, God provides a bumper crop of potatoes.
All I could think of was, Hallelujah, the Irish are smilin’ and these spuds are for you!
Thanks be to God for the answer of blessing and abundance, thanks be to God for the harvest of Farming God’s Way!
GO Africa, our ministry partner, is committed to training and equipping all of the Father’s House communities in Eastern Africa in Farming God’s Way. We are grateful for our Agricultural Champion Trainers: Hilary Byorugunda and Robert Sabimana. Together, they have traveled, trained and transformed many impoverished and hungry communities through these methods. Their cultivation continually results in an abundant harvest. Our children eat well and are growing strong thanks to their work. Their dedication feeds whole communities with healthful food and redemptive dignity.
To learn more about its significance and effectiveness in feeding the children and communities in our care, please read the web article below.
*What is Farming God’s Way? Why is it needed?
Agriculture is the backbone of sub-Saharan Africa, providing the biggest source of employment, livelihoods and foreign exchange. Yet soils are worn out and agricultural production is falling. Per capita agricultural production fell by about 5% over the past 20 years in sub-Saharan Africa while increasing by 40% in other developing regions.
Africa’s fragile soils have suffered from a combination of poor agricultural practices, degradation of natural resources, over grazing and the pressure of growing populations. Other problems include lack of access to land, particularly for women farmers, adding to the problem of soil degradation. Most people farm on plots of two hectares or smaller, and these smallholder farmers provide as much as 90% of agricultural production in some countries. As populations increase, the soil is worked harder on ever decreasing plots.
God ‘is the Master Farmer’
“Farming God’s Way puts God back where He belongs – into the very centre of how we view and practice agriculture. This is a holistic approach that ministers to farmers, addressing the spiritual and physical roots of the decline that is taking place,” says Farming God’s Way trainer Craig Sorley.
“For Christians, the story of agriculture begins in Eden with the knowledge that God was the one who planted a magnificent and diverse garden. This story brings tremendous meaning and dignity to the realm of agriculture. As Christian gardeners we need to follow the example of the First Farmer and uphold the Garden of Eden as a model to be pursued.
“The beauty of a healthy, productive and well cared for agricultural landscape should be a testimony to the Christian faith. Farming is a meaningful and noble way of life because God was the first Farmer and God has given farmers a special responsibility to care for their landscapes in the best way possible.”
So how does it work?
Training a group of Parish Priests & Pastors in Farming God’s Way
In terms of practical application, Farming God’s Way is a Biblically-based version of conservation agriculture, which is promoted in Africa as a form of climate-smart agriculture that both restores degraded land and increases crop yields. As well as reducing drudgery and labour for smallholder farmers by up to 50%, this farming method nourishes the soil and enables it to retain water much better, which means it’s particularly useful in dry areas.
The core principles are:
- Minimal disturbance of the soil (no tillage) – the practice of plowing destroys soil structure including the micro organisms that live in the soil, leading to erosion and rapid water loss;
- Permanent organic cover in the form of mulch – in Farming God’s Way, this is called ‘God’s blanket’.
- Covering with protective mulch:
- Stops soil erosion
- Improves water filtration of the soil
- Minimises evaporation of water from the soil
- Adds organic matter, improving fertility
- No burning of crop residues – these are used to cover the soil instead;
- Weed faithfully – labour saved on plowing is transferred to regular weeding;
- Practice crop rotation – because God’s garden was diverse;
- Pay attention to detail – “Since we serve a God of detail, we should give careful attention to everything on our farms throughout the year, including the proper spacing of plants, how fertiliser or manure is added, how seed is planted, etc,” he says;
- Pursue high standards in all things – “God is glorified when we strive for excellence”;
- Incorporate trees into your farming system – “Agroforestry is not something invented by man, it is something God demonstrated on the very first garden. Agroforestry combines both agriculture and forestry with conservation practices for long-term sustainability,” he says.
‘If we restore the soil, we will bring more food into our families’
In 2012, Craig Sorley harvested 89 kilos of potatoes from his Farming God’s Way plot compared to 51 kilos of potatoes from the conventional plot. His bean harvest was even more impressive – three and a half times as much from the Farming God’s Way plot compared to the conventional plot. His results are echoed elsewhere in Africa where similar techniques are applied.
In Uganda, for example, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries reports crop yields up to 600% higher with farms using conservation agriculture.
Article by ARC and can be read here>>