Not all missionairies have farming on their agenda, but this missionary does. Hunger is a global reality, and famine is a death sentence. Relief is a necessity at times, but is not the long term solution to hunger. Agriculturual development, however, is a solution.
We have probably all heard the the expression “give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” At one time, Uganda was considered the Pearl of Africa with fertile farmland providing food all over the continent. If it happened before, it can happen again now. Forty years of conflict, war, and corrupt government has made it nearly impossible to farm. But it’s time to learn again. Ugandan farmers need to be re-educated in agricultural development, they need to experience the dignity that comes from tilling the land, feeding their family, and receiving an income that allows them to expand.
As many know, farmers are not afraid of putting in a long days work. The farmers in our Alingi Farmers Co-Op are no exception. We are currently helping 40 families (totalling 320 people) resettle their land, build their homes, and farm again after more than years of war. So far, we have opened up about 160 acres of land, purchased several teams of oxen, provided seeds and farming tools, and hired an agricultural consultant to provide much needed advice on the best farming practices currently used in Uganda.
We decided to host a “Farmer’s Co-Op Day” at the local church that the farmers built for their community. You shoulda been there! There really are no words to describe the day. For me it was definitely the highlight of the trip. We celebrated, we sang and danced, everyone shared bits of history, the leaders of the Co-Op spoke, Russ gave a great message and two of the farmers were saved, and last but not least, we presented gifts of encouragement for their hard work in starting all over again. The Bible says “do not despise the day of small beginnings.” These farmers have come out of IDP/refugee camps and have literally started with nothing.
Our gifts to them included…
-opening up nearly 100 acres of new land
-purchasing four irrigation pedal pump systems
-ten different vegetable seeds and essential garden tools to start gardens for every family
-food pantry items
-a new local kitchen stove and jerry can for carrying water for each family
-solar audio players with God Stories on them
…all totaling nearly $7000.
Needless to say the farmers were thrilled. You should have seen their faces of joy and gratitude as they received their gifts! They promised me they would work hard to make it the best year ever. They do believe this will be their year of break-through. At the end of the day, they gave me three gifts. A new dress, two handwoven baskets, and a new name. I was now one of them. Although I look different on the outside, farming unites our hearts and makes us one. My new name is Aber, meaning “the best.” I thanked them, but gently reminded them Aber is not the best, Jesus is. The day and our joint partnership was only possible because of the Name above all names.