In many developing countries, sustainable farming practices can be a matter of life and death. The climate crisis is making extreme weather events such as droughts more common, and farmers have to be prepared.
An initiative called "Farming God’s way" is helping them do just that. This innovative scheme is run by Tearfund's local church partners. It's helping many communities we work with move a step ahead when it comes to farming in a way that looks after God’s creation.
At the heart of the program is the practice of ‘mulching’. Essentially, the soil is covered in a layer of dead leaves and grass. This helps retain the soil’s moisture, which is crucial in harsh climates. When these materials decay, their nutrients are passed into the soil. The need for extensive ploughing, which is labour intensive and can damage the health of the soil, is eliminated. This mimics natural processes – hence ‘farming God’s way’.
The results can be life-changing. Moyo*, a father of four from Malawi, spent much of his life in a near constant state of hunger. Prolonged droughts meant he couldn’t harvest enough either to feed his family or sell to make a living. His children couldn’t go to school as he was unable to pay the fees.
When one of Tearfund’s local partners taught him about Farming God’s Way, all that changed. Within two years, he had quadrupled the yield of his crop. Now he has more than enough to go around. What's more, he’s teaching other members of his community the same methods.
‘God answers prayers,’ Moyo tells us. ‘I could not imagine coming out of my poverty and hunger-stricken situation. I would encourage people to hold on to their faith, as one day God will visit them.’
As well as higher crop yields, Farming God’s Way produces benefits to people such as improved income from the sale of surplus food, reduced manual labour, and greater resilience to climate change. It’s great for the environment too, with outcomes such as healthier soil, erosion control, water conservation, and keeping carbon in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.
Farmers like Moyo are encouraged to see their work not merely as something they need to do to survive, but as a spiritual vocation. Producing food is a way of glorifying God and loving your neighbor, and caring for the soil is an act of worship.
At a time of environmental crisis, such an approach is deeply necessary. Soil is essential for human life, so we need to look after it. For too long that hasn’t been the case, but now there are reasons to hope.
*Names changed to protect identity.
This post originally appeared on Tearfund.org in January 2020.
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