These are just some of the reasons that the training programme we provide in villages is even more important now than when we started in 2016. This year, with further funding from Operation Agri and support from African Pastors Fellowship, we are working with a new cohort of villages in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Blantyre Rural, Ntcheu, Balaka, Mangochi and Machinga Districts.
The training we give has adapted with our experience and the changing pressures on farmers. We still focus on good soil management, such as creating planting stations rather than following the traditional practice of earthing-up which damages soil structure, and mulching. As the price of fertiliser has doubled, knowledge about making thermal compost is a lifeline.
Now, however, we also promote ‘climate smart’ agriculture by teaching about trees like the acacia tree Faidherbia albida which add fertility to the soil and protect crops. We include more about managing farm finances, helping farmers to think carefully about borrowing, saving and marketing surplus crops. We also think it is important to create opportunities for communities to come together and discuss the traumas they have faced over the last few years and begin to heal.
One of the most exciting aspects of the training is that we now include teaching about animal care. This is because farmers who follow the training make a profit which they invest. Livestock provide an excellent income stream as not only can the young be sold but they also produce manure for compost. One important aspect of our training is linking our faith and farming practices to our responsibility to care for creation. It is so important that Christian farmers know that caring for the land God has given them is central to their faith.
Over the past seven years, the Growing Greener project has seen so many changes in the lives of people and communities involved. As soil fertility and yields have grown, lives in the villages have changed.
We see food security, livestock purchased, school fees paid, and homes roofed with iron sheets. We are especially grateful for the additional support we received to help farmers in the Lower Shire Valley buy seed to replace the crops lost to flooding after Cyclone Freddy.
Thank you for all your support.