Farming God's way - 2019 World Development Appeal

13.12.2019 | Mission News, Global Mission, World Development Appeal


In the run up to Christmas and into the New Year, local congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) will be supporting the Church’s annual World Development Appeal (WDA).

For over 40 years, Presbyterians have raised millions of pounds through the Appeal for life changing projects in some of the poorest communities and disadvantaged places on the planet. The lead project for the 2019 Appeal, ‘Farming God’s Way,’ seeks to address poverty and food insecurity due to natural disasters and problem investment in Mozambique.

The Appeal supports the work of PCI’s relief and development partners, Tearfund and Christian Aid, in a number of countries across the globe. Primarily for Presbyterians, the 2019 Appeal, will support the work of ‘Tearfund's partner, CEDES (Comité Ecuménico Para O Desenvolvimento Social / Ecumenical Committee for Social Development).

Describing the Appeal as ‘remarkable’, the convener of the World Development Committee, Rev Fiona Forbes said, “There is a wonderful rhythm to Church life. At this particular time of year, our Church comes together across the island of Ireland to learn more about, to support and bless the vital work of sustainable development in fragile states, in the case of this year’s lead project, conservation agriculture.

“Just as we have been blessed in so many different ways, through the Appeal we invite our congregations to stand in solidarity with some of the poorest communities around the world. We may be in Belfast or Derry, Dublin, Cork or elsewhere, but we stand with them on their frontlines. Together we join in their journeys, discovering the stories of how God is working in His world to bring hope and transformation, re-shaping how they are in relationship with one another, and with the world around them.”

The minister of Harmony Hill, near Lisburn, continued, “The work of sustainable development is not simple. It is hard work and long-term as it seeks to build within communities a shared vision for a future that is different to that which has gone before. It is a remarkable work of faith and endurance, of courage and hope and we are grateful to be able to be a part of it,” she said.

This year’s lead project focuses on the Inhassoro district of Mozambique, which lies within the cyclone region of the country, but is also prone to drought. “Eking out an existence through subsistence farming in this fragile and dangerous place is hard work, but through our partner, CEDES, communities are discovering within themselves the resources and the capacity to do more than that, which the World Development Appeal can further support,” explained Derek Hall, Tearfund’s church relationships manager.

“In farming co-operatives they are learning how to adapt their farming methods so they can be more resilient in the face of the challenges that come their way. Conservation agriculture techniques, or ‘Farming God’s Way’, are not only producing greater quantity and better quality crops during and outside of the traditional growing season, but are also bearing fruit in terms of faith and relationships,” he said.

An important part of the project is training what are known as ‘umoja’ facilitators. ‘Umoja’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘togetherness’ and the ‘umoja’ process sees a trained facilitator lead community groups in Bible studies that also bring people together.

“Through these studies, the community is helped in identifying and using the resources they have to lead and control their own development. This removes the sense of disempowerment that can accompany being dependent on an external donor. In this process there is also potential within local churches to take a lead on development issues in a more holistic approach to ministry,” Derek Hall explained.

He also said that working with families; households have been trained in sustainable farming techniques that generate a small surplus income. This can then be reinvested through self-help groups that in turn, generate small businesses in the neighbourhood.

In a specially produced video by PCI for the Appeal, Horácio Valoi, CEDES project co-ordinator, tells the story of how ‘Farming God’s Way’ through sustainable farming techniques has been transformative for the community he works with. “In conservation agriculture nothing is lost, nothing is new…we recycle everything that the low land gives us. The other thing is not using chemical fertilisers or pesticides as they destroy the soil.” He also said that people “…have money to clothe and education their children…even church relationships have improved.”

Commending the 2019 World Development Appeal to congregations, Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr William Henry said, “The challenges and difficulties that can face the work of sustainable development cannot be underestimated. Through this appeal, we have a remarkable opportunity, as global disciples, to understand the frontlines some of the poorest communities around the world find themselves on.

“As we pray and support practically this year’s Appeal, we can play a part in helping communities in Mozambique and in other fragile and dangerous places to unlock the potential within them to sow and nurture the seeds of a more sustainable future. We are called to share God’s heart for His world, demonstrating His love through practical and prayerful support, while declaring the good news that our God is a redeeming and a restoring God. As the psalmist tells us in Psalm 126:6, ‘Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves,’” Dr Henry said.

While the project in Mozambique is the lead project for the 2019 World Development Appeal, Rev Fiona Forbes also explained that the Appeal would also support a Christian Aid project in Bangladesh. “‘Catherina’s Cassava’, also focuses on poverty alleviation through sustainable farming, which demonstrates that conservation agriculture techniques are bearing fruit in other fragile and dangerous places. This includes Chad, Nigeria and the Ivory

In highlighting the challenges and difficulties that sustainable development brings, particularly in fragile states, Rev Fiona Forbes said that they can impact the task of communicating how that work is progressing as well as how the work itself is carried out on the ground.

In 2017, the World Development Committee (WDC) introduced a new approach to the Appeal, linking that year’s Appeal with those of the following three years under an over-arching theme of the challenges of sustainable development in fragile and dangerous places. It was our intension to revisit in years 3 and 4 of the cycle, those projects highlighted in years 1 and 2.

“We became all too keenly aware of just how real and how dynamic such challenges can be, when it became clear earlier this year that the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to which a return trip was planned for this year as part of this four-year road map, was going to make such a visit impossible.

“Some re-routing was required and so, in consultation with our lead development partner for this year, Tearfund, the choice was made to visit Mozambique. Our inability to return to the DRC demonstrates the fragility of the situation in there, but the importance of our prayers and support,” she said.

Photos: (1&2) Members of a farming co-operative in Inhassoro district, south-east Mozambique, tending crops grown as a result of sustainable farming techniques developed through Tearfund’s partner CEDES (3) at the launch of the 2019 World Development Appeal ‘Farming God’s Way’ are (left to right) Rev Dr Liz Hughes, convener of PCI’s Council for Global Mission, Council Secretary, Rev Uel Marrs, World Development Committee convener, Rev Fiona Forbes, the Moderator, Rt Rev Rev Dr William Henry, Debbie Doherty, head of church partnerships, Christian Aid Ireland and Derek Hall, Tearfund's church relationships manager.

You can find out more about this year's World Development Appeal here. You can also read about Rev Uel Marrs visit to some of the projects supported by this year's appeal here in an article in the Presbyterian Herald.

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