It is a late planting season in Malawi. Normally, local subsistence farmers plant in early December. This year, however, sequential dry weeks before and after Christmas shriveled the young maize in many fields. This forced countless families to replant in January, using extra seed they could scarcely afford, grains which they will miss as hunger season intensifies in the months to come. In Mngwangwa Village, Goshen Church needed to replant the soya and maize in the fields which produce food for their Children’s Development Center, a definite setback for the church feeding program, which will run out of food before this year’s crops are ready to harvest.
But Thoko was not without good news. “The community fields do not need replanting.” She says. “We planted in November and they are doing well.” Those who attended the training we held in partnership with Namikango Mission last May formed a men’s and women’s committee and planted two community fields this year, testing out methods of conservation farming introduced at the training. The groups spent the dry season gathering at each person’s house and preparing big piles of compost for the season to come, and at planting time they worked together to utilize natural fertilizers, ground covers and planting stations in their community field. This method is so different from the traditional method of planting in rows collected from depleted top soil that many community members weren’t ready to trust their entire family field to the new method, so they chose for themselves what percentage of their fields to plant using new techniques.
The results speak for themselves. “The chiefs in the area have seen the difference in the fields” Thoko reports. “They want to know why they were not invited to the training.” She went on to explain that although we invited 5 church member chiefs to last year’s training, now the Group Village Headman (GVH) and 35 additional area chiefs are asking for their own trainings. This not only speaks to the undeniable benefits of conservation farming, but has enormous potential to help bring big changes to the community. These leaders could make a big difference in community rules regarding preserving compostable organic material from burning and grazing in the dry season, making better farming possible and incredible transformation for the area. Many Malawian farmers spend more on fertilizer and seed than they could make back from selling their entire crops at harvest time. “I did not apply [any] fertilizer” Thoko explains, “Only Manure.” Bumper crops not requiring expensive manure would be game-changers for most Malawian farmers and their families.
So as crops are growing and communities are seeing potential for improved food security and transformational development, Greg and I are making plans for ministry in 2022, planting our own seeds in a way. Trainings in World View, Agriculture, Village Savings, and Community Health Evangelism (CHE) as well as talks on health and theology have potential to flourish in five different areas in the next six months, as well as at the Nazarene national meetings throughout the year. We invested some time in January contacting several other organizations and individuals who are undertaking similar CHE initiatives throughout our region, and we are hoping to learn from them and share resources whenever possible. We are also hoping to raise up local CHE leaders within the church to help mentor and multiply impact from the numerous opportunities this year.
This month, please pray for wisdom in our use of time and resources, as well as health and strength for our friends, partners, and national leaders. And pray for the country of Malawi as a whole, as we head into what will likely be a long hunger season.