Conservation Agriculture: A Game-Changer for Jane

Monday, September 26, 2016

farmer_janewebThe following article is by Phil Delsaut, President of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. Phil recently traveled to Kenya on a tour for Canadian church leaders with the Foodgrains Bank, where he learned about the challenges and opportunities faced by small-scale farmers. This article originally appeared on the EMCC website.

Meet Jane, a small-scale farmer in Kenya.

Like so many other small-scale farmers, she was all too familiar with the stress of knowing that there would not be enough to feed her family next month. She now owns a ‘hotel’ — which in her world is like a lunch counter – a direct result of her training ‘Farming God’s Way’ (FGW) – a particular application of Conservation Agriculture.

Hers is one of the many ‘success stories’ from training in Conservation Agriculture (CA) which is revolutionizing the lives of people in the developing world. In many cases the ‘hunger months’ – months where there is not enough food – have been reduced from 5 or 6 to 1 or 2 or even 0!

I met Jane in Kenya in July during a tour with Canadian Foodgrains Bank  to learn about the benefits of Agricultural Aid that focuses on the small-scale farmer. Jane gave us a tour of her farm – about an acre! On that small farm she has moved from bare subsistence to having a surplus for market. With her earnings, she is able to feed her family, improve her standard of living, send her kids to school and start a business – yes, a ‘hotel.’

Jane is the beneficiary of a multilayered web of partnership that reaches deeply into Canada. Jane learned Conservation Agriculture from trainers who had been trained through Canadian sponsorship, specifically Mennonite Central Committee, a partner of the Foodgrains Bank.

The Foodgrains Bank is a conduit for some of Canada’s food aid to the developing world. While we were in Kenya, Jane’s farm was being used to train a new group of Conservation Agriculturalists. This training was provided through World Renew (Christian Reformed Church) and the Anglican Church in Kenya. A third of the participants was composed of the County Minister of Agriculture and his department, who were present for the entire training.

Jane has been learning, applying her training, and also experimenting. After harvesting beans in one field, she observed that the soil under the heavy mulch was still dark with moisture three months after the last rains. She prayed and thought and then planted the field with maize, much to skepticism and derision from her neighbours. To her satisfaction and their amazement, the maize came up lush and green. Her neighbours are now more receptive to learning the CA principles she had learned and applied.

Jane is representative of the small-scale farmers who make up the vast majority of farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, 50% of whom are women. They face the challenges of unpredictable climate shifts, uncertain rains, depleted soil fertility, unfavourable markets, undeveloped infrastructure and sometimes government instability, as well as the universal challenges that farmers the world over face.

The efforts of the Foodgrains Bank and other NGOs has shown that, done well with the right partners on the ground, some investment in training, finance, and some infrastructure can actually really change the lives of real people.

With a little support from foreign aid (both governmental as well as NGOs) roughly a billion people could improve their own food security and more. Peace and security, economic growth, positive environmental impact, improved nutrition, empowerment of women, family stability, community building and more have a direct correlation to small-scale farming success stories.

This is happening, but the need is a great, and there are many small-scale farmers who have not been trained. Canada has an important part to play, but in the last several years the allocation to international agricultural aid has declined. Encourage our government leaders to respond positively to increasing support for agriculture, especially to the critically important small-scale farmers.

You can contribute to this campaign by communicating with your Member of Parliament about this issue and how it is important to you. Write a letter or email, call your MP’s office or talk to your MP in person and pass on this important message. Learn more about the issue, and pray for this work, and for those working to improve their own food security. If you have any questions, or need some support, call us at 1-800-665-0377 or email cfgb@foodgrainsbank.ca.

EMCC is one of fifteen members of the Foodgrains Bank. We are thankful for the effectiveness of Canadian Foodgrains Bank in the commendable goal of ending global hunger.

By Phil Delsaut,
President, Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada
Learn more on our website.