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Farming

Growing Greener in Zambia

By eVitabu, Farming, Zambia

It’s the early hours of the morning. The rumble of distant thunder and close-by chirp of crickets is suddenly drowned out by the first drops of rain on the tin roofs. Soon the whole community in Zambia’s Mumbwa district are awake to the comforting sound of rainfall. Planting will start at first light.

After a prolonged dry spell the heavy rain is very welcome. Not everyone is optimistic, however. “The rainfall pattern has not been consistent. We could be headed for a repeat of last season” complains one farmer.

Southern Africa has experienced normal rainfall in just one of the last five growing seasons.  Persistent drought, cyclones and flooding have wreaked havoc on harvests in a region dependent on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture.

Zambia is experiencing both climate extremes at the same time. Farmers in the south-western parts of the country are anxious about erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns. In the north-east, they are battling flash floods.

It is unanimously agreed that the changes in Zambia’s weather patterns are caused by human-induced climate change, over-exploitation of natural resources and deforestation.

The group most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are the poorest as they rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. The scale of the challenge facing poor rural communities feels overwhelming, but one pastor still has hope. Lawson Limao oversees a small network of Zambian churches called Word of God Ministries. “Where God is there is hope” he says.

One source of hope is the farming guides Lawson found APF’s eVitabu app. He uses eVitabu on his old Android smart phone. Using the guides on eVitabu and some funding from APF, Lawson trained around a hundred farmers last year. Despite Covid and lockdowns, the training went well, and more funding is heading to the church network so he can continue his training and reach many more farmers this year.

“The training I do I found on eVitabu” he explained. “On the app there are resources from Foundations for Farming and other experts which can help rural pastors and leaders do farming in new ways that are less sensitive to drought and look after the soil.

“God’s way is to preserve nature whilst making farming a profitable venture to undertake. This is what I love to talk about with pastors and their wives. The content of the training includes faithfulness and fruitfulness, farming for a profit, crop management techniques, composting, crop rotation and cover cropping.

“The programme I am doing with APF’s support in Mumbwa District is among the Ila people. This people group are mainly subsistence farmers and they have for some time been practicing conventional farming methods like ploughing. That has led to the poor soil structure and outright poverty despite God blessing them with adequate rainfall and land.

“It is my view that the training will benefit the community through the church to adapt to the new farming techniques. This will help improve their yields thus providing sustainable food security for their families and for church purposes whatever the changing weather brings.”

Mission and Ministry in Mali

By eVitabu, Farming, Mali

Pastor Pascal Adams Thera found APF online. After introducing himself and his work amongst the Malinké people of south-western Mali, we soon got him up and running on eVitabu, our church leader resource-hub app. Since then, we’ve enjoyed finding out more about Pascal and his community development work in this challenging part of Africa.

I was born into a practicing Christian family. I am married to Marceline Sanou who is a nurse and we have four children and five grandsons. I accepted Jesus Christ in 1975 and the call to ministry came shortly after. I did not enter a full-time pastoral ministry immediately, however. I first trained as a business manager and administrator and worked as a management consultant and development officer. My call was to be a lay preacher, or tentmaker as we say.

In those days, I belonged to the Evangelical Christian Church of Mali. As Development Officer, I worked on many agricultural projects. This is so important as Mali is very food insecure and every year the desert grows larger.

In 2017, I came to Manantali. Manantali is a small but busy market town near the dam of the Bafing River. You find the town in the Bafoulabé Cercle in the Kayes Region of south-western Mali.

I first came to Manantali wanting to establish an entrepreneurship project for young people through agriculture. The vision that the Lord gave me was for an agricultural project supported by a strong local church. The Manantali area is inhabited by four unreached ethnic groups: the Malinké, Soninké, Peulhs and Moors. Church leaders in the area have no training and they struggle especially with evangelism.

When I first arrived, I taught the church leaders using Paul’s ‘Call of the Macedonian’ in Acts 16. After I gave this message, the church leaders that were preaching in the desert asked me to answer this call myself and stay in Manantali. I agreed.

I began to formalise the framework of this work and soon Mission Evangélique Chrétienne Agape (MECA) was born. MECA is an indigenous Malian mission and  stands for evangelism, church planting and discipleship. Our headquarters are in Manantali where we also have a local church which I am pastoring. We have planted another church in Niantasso, 45 kilometres away with a trainee pastor.

Our goal is that we should not depend on the outside world for the financial life of our organisation. My background in community development has convinced me of the importance of sustainable agriculture so we have adopted this as a strategy for supporting the ministry.

Our headquarters has an area that we want to fence and irrigate for agriculture. At the same time, we are starting a sustainable agriculture training project for the local youth. In all the villages we are going to, we plan to acquire some land (either by grant or by buying it) and replicate this same approach.

What are my hopes for the future? To answer that, let me tell you about our vision. It is to establish at least one active local church, strong both spiritually and numerically, in every administrative village in the Bafoulabé Cercle and beyond. The Bafoulabé Cercle has 13 communities and has about 212 villages including Manantali.

We want to see the Malinké people reached for Jesus with a strong and living church among them. The Malinké are included in Revelation 7:9 so we have to work to make it happen.

We long to see communities able to support themselves and free from poverty. We long to see our own training institute where we will train our pastors and leaders in Christian theology, pastoral leadership and sustainable agriculture.

It is a big vision but we have a big God.

Twenty Years of Partnership in Malawi

By eVitabu, Farming, Malawi, Training

2021 is APF’s 40th Anniversary year! In celebration, some of our longest standing partners have shared memories of partnering with APF. This time, Revd Lloyd Chizenga describes some of the ways APF has supported the ministry of New Life Christian Church in Malawi for more than two decades.

I joined the Fellowship in 2000 when Revd Ralph Hanger was APF Director. Since then, APF has been instrumental in my life and family and the ministry of New Life Christian Church here in southern Malawi. APF to us is family so we are celebrating 40 years with you.

Over the years, APF has been a true partner in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When our house was attacked by robbers in the night, APF helped us relocate to a safer part of Blantyre and build a new home.

When our church network was very young and had no trained leaders, APF helped new pastors get vital basic training. Each person got a certificate of attendance.

APF provided goats to poor church leader families. When a goat gave birth to twins, one young goat was given to another family as a way out of household poverty.

Income generation projects have been an important part of APF’s support here in Malawi. Working with pastors’ wives to set up micro-businesses has made a huge difference. Many children were able to go to secondary school and pay school fees because of the profits pastors’ wives made from these small enterprises.

More recently, APF has equipped our leadership team with eVitabu. eVitabu is like a library that grows and grows. I was one of the first pastors to use eVitabu.

I travelled to Uganda in 2018 and was given a tablet to use eVitabu on. There are so many resources on eVitabu that are good for pastors here in Malawi to read.

Covid-19 continues to be a huge challenge here. Many businesses are bankrupt and hospitals are struggling. In Blantyre, city health authorities have launched emergency activities to deal with a big increase in the number of patients. At Christmas, workers returning from South Africa brought that new Covid-19 variant with them which is more easily caught. Malawi is not likely to get any vaccines soon, but we are grateful to APF for the grant which helped us buy washing buckets, soap, masks and sanitiser.

The most significant partnership between APF and New Life Christian Church however has been the Growing Greener project. We have been running this for about five years now and it is truly a life changer for poor farming households. We train communities in village churches on farming techniques like no-till soil management, composting, mulching, agroforestry and on-farm micro-business.

Rural communities are always suspicious of change. Even when a change is shown to make a positive difference, witchcraft is blamed. But because the Growing Greener project is led by us and comes through the local Malawi church, not from outsiders, people trust it, follow the teachings and it is working. So far, this project has reached many thousands of households.

All this would have been impossible without APF’s standing alongside us. By working in partnership with the local African church, APF taps into the resources already there in the church and in the community. It is this approach that is really make a difference.

So, to all our friends who support APF back in the UK, thank you!

Revd Lloyd Chizenga is ‘Bishop’ of New Life Christian Church (NLCC). NLCC is an independent network of churches based in Blantyre. The majority of NLCC congregations are in rural communities in Malawi and Mozambique.

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We will pick up where we left off…

By Farming, Malawi

One of APF’s projects that has been paused due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions on gatherings is the Growing Greener agriculture project run by New Life Christian Church in Malawi. Revd Lloyd Chizenga reports on how the church network was responding.

“What is happening in Malawi with Covid-19? As a church we are currently on a sensitisation tour, teaching the communities on how people can get the virus and how to avoid getting the virus. There is a lot of misinformation about, especially in the remote areas, and the government is being supported by NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] and churches like ours to keep people informed. We are busy bringing awareness messages to rural communities about Covid-19.

“Apparently, about 80 people have been found positive in Malawi. Twenty-four have recovered and three patients have died. The government tried to impose a national lockdown, but it did not work well because most of the people are poor. We live hand-to-mouth and there were no plans to help people financially so they could stay at home without starving. As you may be aware, around 85% of the population lives in the rural areas so they must continue farming, buying and selling food.

“Besides the impact of Covid-19 on our livelihoods, it has also affected us morally, physically and spiritually. We have a sense that some of our cultural tendencies have to be stopped. This includes having to follow social distancing guidelines and keeping at least a meter apart from others. We have been told we must avoid hand shaking and instead hand wash frequently with soap or sanitiser. There is also a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. All these are new things in the Malawian setting. We are used to meeting in our hundreds even in rural communities. Our government has been less strict than many others in Africa but they are now saying we should wear a mask.

“In terms of the ‘Growing Greener’ sustainable agriculture project we have been running with support from APF and Operation Agri, Covid-19 has had an impact. Since we can only meet with 50 people and not more than that, we have had to pause meetings and training sessions with project beneficiaries. Our community groups normally have around 120 people in them so training must be reduced.

“We will pick up where we left off as soon as we are able. One thing we can do is to divide the community groups into more but smaller groups to follow the guidance. In the long term, Covid-19 has not affected the operations of the project so much, it has just slowed it down this year.

“One of the tasks I have been doing is to provide hand washing buckets, soap, sanitiser, and face masks to over 35 communities in the Chikwawa area. This is so important to stop Covid-19 spreading through our communities. We have been supported by APF donors in the UK to do this but we need more assistance so we can purchase more.”

Please pray

Giving thanks for the long-standing partnership APF has with Revd Lloyd Chizenga and his team

Giving thanks for Lloyd’s faith and optimism about picking up where we left off with Growing Greener

That some training has been able to continue albeit with reduced numbers

For any negative unintended consequences of social distancing on cultural habits to be minimal but that soap, water and facemasks being provided by Lloyd have maximum impact, maintaining public health and protection from coronavirus in Chikwawa region