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INT06 - Foundations for Farming: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: March 14, 2017

February Trip by John Vlaming and Jerry Field


hard at workThe first trip of this year is done. First up was Burundi. Two years ago John had given a Foundations for Farming training here, and a couple of people had achieved very good results/yields using these methods. Despite a gap of two years between visits, due to unrest in the country, they had faithfully used the methods. Quite a success story! This time around we gave some more training in different places and caught up with some of the ones trained before. Before travelling on we spent time with four great guys who will be trainers themselves and will go to their own areas to train their own people. I’m not sure we have appointed trainers in any other partnership after the second visit, marvellous! A very encouraging visit indeed.

Then onto Rwanda. We had not been here before, but our contact person has been asking for a while if someone could come and do this training with them. This was a scouting trip, to meet and talk and see what the possibilities are. As there is no BHW partnership here, it will take time to develop a good relationship with people on the ground. Rwanda has made some big steps forward in lots of ways, and this is continuing. The topography of the land is similar to Burundi, same with the demographics, but in other ways it is very different. Like Burundi, the soil and the climate are good, but there are problems with erosion and degradation of the land, and as a result poor yields. They get food aid in rural areas and that should not be necessary at all.

Our contact person here is part of the leadership of a big group of churches in Rwanda. The majority of the pastors of these churches live off the produce of their own land, so a great starting point for us. Our time was spent visiting farmers in different parts of the country and discussing with them what we could do if they wanted some training. After some discussions and explanations on our part, they got very enthusiastic, especially as an outreach tool, and we hope to get some training dates organised for later this year.



steep farmOverview

Burundi is a beautiful country, with a fair bit of military presence to keep control of the country. There are two rainy seasons in this green looking and very steep country, planting times are late September and early February. 

Clean water for people up in the hills is an issue with many people having to walk to streams in the low valleys to get water for households, before carrying it back up the hill to their homes. 

Foundations for Farming

good discussionsWe visited the Emmanuel Church of Kiyenzi that Gabriel pastors to see how things had progressed. Gabriel is the pastor who yielded 63 kg of beans from 250 grams planted, where the normal expectation would be 5-6 kg of yield.

The mulch seen on Gabriel’s plot was very good although he said that he was having to buy cut grass for US$1 per bag. We encouraged them that they can use any plant matter such as leaves and crop residue for mulch and can collect it and store it throughout the year. There were some issues of pests and disease as well, with very little access to agricultural supplies given the last two years of political problems in the country. There may be a need for them to push some shops to try and get access to basic agricultural supplies such as fertilizer, seed and medicines. There are issues with pests such as good jobmaize stalk borer that they may need help with in terms of medicines and sprayers. We also discussed the need to make sure the mulch was not hard up against the plants which may then cause fungal diseases.

There is a major issue facing farmers of cassava where the mosaic virus has attacked most of the fields in the region. It seems to be spread by white-fly, but yields are severely reduced in the country. Using methods of crop rotation, careful selection of new planting material that shows no sign of the virus, having correct canopy spacing to allow maximum growth of the plants, and using compost will help in the control of the virus. 

hands on trainingGabriel has trained 13 other people, first by holding a training course at the church and then doing some follow up visits at people's own plots. Some of these 12 trainees were there when we visited saying they are very encouraged by the farming methods and have seen real benefit especially in terms of farming on steep land and helping with issues of erosion.

Training Courses
We held two courses in three days, one a very short four hour one in the church at Kiyenzi with many people who had seen what Gabriel had been doing and were very interested to hear about the farming methods, and another course for two days with people handpicked for the potential of being farming trainers in the future. 

good understandingThe participants were very active, had many questions and seemed to get a very good understanding of the principals. 

We met with four of the most engaged farmers (Gabriel, Pierre, Jeandediue and Emmanuel) the following day for a couple of hours to ask more questions and to explore how they might take this training further.  


Personal Stories

Pierre Barahemana

great resultsPierre was trained by Gabriel in some of the methods of FfF after John's visit two years ago. In the first season he planted 250 grams of bean seed to get 53 kg of beans which was amazing. The next year he planted 2 kgs and harvested more than 80 kgs. That was a very dry year and most people harvested nothing. He says “It is only me who is able to tithe in the church because the rest have nothing. As one of their pastors it is up to me to teach them of Foundations for Farming so they too can have a harvest and tithe."

Pierre was brought up in a Christian home but came to know God personally when he was 18 years of age. That’s when it really struck him that he needed a perfect God to forgive him his sins. He studied administration and medical studies at school, and then had a job working for a local hospital for 17 years but unfortunately that finished a year ago. His wife has a job in administration in one of the tea exporting companies. He is 45 years old and has five children aged from 14 years to 3 years.

He has been a pastor of the local church (there are six pastors in total) for the past 18 years and continues that role even now that he lost his job. He is now using farming to support his family and his ministry work.

They have planted eight churches in the mountain regions. Each time they plant one, when members who come are having to travel long distances they start another one in that area.

He was very active in the training we held and we visited his plot which was next to the church to run the practical sessions. Some great mulch was evident although plant spacing is something to be worked on.

Pierre sees that this method of farming can be used to reach people for Christ, and help them come out of poverty. He sees that his calling is to help people physically now and to have a holistic approach.

Gabriel Ngenzebuhoro

great resultsGabriel was brought up in a Christian home and gave his life to Christ at the age of 18. He has been pastoring at the church for many years, being the village he grew up in. He has nine children, most of whom are now grown up and have jobs in anything from medical technician, building and farming. His eldest daughter is married.

He grows sweet potatoes, cassava, beans, soya beans, garlic, bananas, pineapple and passionfruit. He also has one cow that he grows grass for. Most of the produce is for home consumption but he sells some of the fruit in town, walking 15 km down from the mountain to town with the produce on his head. 

He started to put into practice the methods taught in 2015 and started with a 25m by 5m plot. He has a total farm size of 4 ha but says he wants to start small and do his plot really well, improving the land and increasing in size as he learns and grows with the methods. He was amazed at the yield he got from 250 grams of bean seed being 63 kg verses the normal 6 kg yield.

We asked Gabriel why he was the one of the 24 trained in 2015 who was faithful to carry out the methods. He said it was because he actually is a farmer, whereas all of the other trainees had other jobs or businesses (it would have been better to send their wives who are the ones who actually do the farming). Also he had a hungry family and saw that these methods could help his situation.

Gabriel trained 13 people (Pierre was one of them) and focused on the women in the village who have really taken to the methods. Some of the people trained were even up to 51 kms away in churches that have been planted. They have no records of yield but they do know for sure that good cropthey are getting much more yield than before and even compared to their neighbours. To keep these people focused they need a lot of follow up visits.

This is Elizabeth who is one of the ones that Gabriel trained, pictured with her second crop of beans.

The main problems that Gabriel is facing on his farm is pests and diseases. He cannot afford medicine and sprayers to keep these under control. 


Plans for the Future

We had a discussion with Eodie and Simeon (BHW partners in Burundi) about where to next with the farming. They are going to look at ways they think will help the four farmers to start training locally and in other areas. They may request some funding for transport and materials. At this stage they are thinking of proposing to run two training courses per year.

They also discussed their thinking of a “school” to be set up that would focus on farming training. Not sure what this looks like yet but they will consider a proposal. It is possible that they may have some land and bring in trainees for one day a week to get trained in a stage of the farming method by applying it to the training land. Then the trainees go back to own land for the rest of the week to put it into practice on their own land. They then come the next week for the next step, and this carries on till the end of the process.




varied terrainWe visited Rwanda to assess the possibility of introducing Foundations for Farming to the church organization there. The organization has 193 churches with a Brethren background who are joined together by an elected board of five people. Each church has a team of pastors or elders. In the more rural areas these pastors are only supported by the farming that they do. They pastor voluntarily.

The country is varied in terrain. There are mountainous regions to the west which are amazing to see as there hardly seems to be any land even on these steep slopes that is not under production for food crops or trees. A lot of the land has been cleared and terraced by hand. Here the rainy season is from September to December and then again from February to May. The top soil is very deep, but there is a lot of erosion and landslides due to a lot of cultivation and keeping the soil clear. The rivers are very muddy.

main cropTo the east the land is less mountainous, in fact the people here describe it as flat. They have issues with drought, sometimes it doesn’t rain at all in the year in areas near the lakes. Currently the government has declared the eastern area in a state of famine and is sending in food parcel relief every month.

The main crops grown are maize, rice, bananas (including Plantain), beans (Rwandan's favourite food), Irish potatoes (in the mountains) and cassava. There are a number of people who have a small number of cows as well. 

Foundations for Farming

With many of the rural pastors relying on farming for support there is potential for a big network of trainers. We visited the two main areas, the mountain fertile west and drought stricken east. We were able to give a sermon at one of the churches in the western area, Ngorodorsa, outlining the biblical ties to Foundations for Farming. In the east we visited a couple of farms and then had two hours teaching an introduction to 13 farmers in the Kabarondo Church.

The current farming methods involve a lot of digging (some of which is to remove the star grasses which has roots like couch grass) and no blanket mulch. They also seem to be planting the same crops in the same place year after year, or having some crop rotation by inter-planting beans which roughly planteddoesn’t work as well for fixing nitrogen. They are obviously very hard working, shown by the terracing of the steep land, and the pretty much weed free crops that we saw.

The photo is one of the church members, who has this land just planted in beans and maize. The bean seed is scattered, but maize is planted at 40cm by 100cm, although not really measured, just a guess. 

We met with four of the five members of the executive, and discussed how Foundations for Farming and Bright Hope World works, i.e.:
- focusing on the poor
- using Foundations for Farming as in evangelistic tool
- helping them to achieve their vision in their communities
- selection of people who will eventually become trainers
- BHW to potentially return to run courses if that’s what they want

Some of the executive are farmers in the rural areas and showed a high level of interest. Pastor Theoneste has really picked up on some of the biblical application of the principals. He says “something is stirring in my heart about how to use this to empower rural people and to evangelize them”.

keen to empower othersPastor Leonce (pictured) from the Eastern Church Kabarondo was thinking that this could help empower the local church by helping the members to have a better life and then they can be using their blessing to help with church programs. There is a big push by the church organization to rebuild all the churches, which they have no funds for. It was great he was thinking like this rather than asking for money.


Personal Stories

Pastor Uzziel

potato growerPastor Uzziel is 53 years old, has six children and two grandchildren and has been pastoring the rural church Ramba in the Ngorodorsa region for 10 years. This is in the mountain area of the west with good rainfall and deep topsoil.

His only form of supporting his family is through farming. He was trained by the Rwanda Agricultural Department and has since been growing crops of seed Irish potatoes. The
people in the area know him well, he employees many staff and has no problem selling up to 60 tons of seed potatoes each year. He has made his own storage shelter.

good manure producersUzziel also has two cows that are kept mainly in a shed. They place green grass and dry grass on the floor of the shed, then after one month of the cattle providing manure they clean this out to make compost. This is the main fertilizer they use in the fields for potatoes, but he also buys some DAP (10N:20P:10K). The other crops he grows are peas, beans, cassava, ground nuts, maize and tree tomatoes.

Pastor Theoneste Ngaboyisonga

Theoneste is the legal representative of the Inkuru-Nziza church group. He is the overall leader of the organization. He has eight children, we met his second born who is at home on national service year. Every Rwandan after they finish secondary school has to complete a year of national service doing jobs on peoples' farms, or helping to encourage children to go to school.

overall leaderTheoneste was trained in care for disabled people before training also as an accountant. His training took him to Uganda and the Netherlands. Before being elected onto the board of five, he was working with other Christian organizations. 

He has always liked farming and has just under 1 ha of land on the outskirts of Kigali that he has purchased piece by piece. He grows bananas as his main crop, and interplants with beans, maize and yams.  He has two cows (had two more that died suddenly last year) that he milks. Bananas and milk are easy to sell, the people just come when they hear you have them.

traditional beehivesHe also keeps bees and currently has one wooden hive that has been producing honey. The other traditional hives pictured are not good to keep the bees, as they tend to fly away.

Pastor Nepo

Pastor Nepo lives in the eastern part of Rwanda where there is less rainfall. The land is still very good, and not as steep but not totally flat. 

He has been involved in the executive for 27 years and has been farming his whole life. He is pastoring the local Kabarondo church and also involved with six other churches in the region. He is seen as a leader in the community and therefore gets to sit down with many of the VIP that come to town.

great mulchHe has been advised by the local RAD rep (Agricultural Department). There are some really good things that he is doing, such as trialling mulch on his bananas (as shown above), making compost with his cows, ensuring bananas have only four different staged suckers at one time, and measuring amounts of fertilizer. He said that the RAD had been advising farmers of what crops to plant where, which thankfully did include some crop rotation.

The last harvest of maize there was very little rain, after planting it didn’t rain for one month. His yield from 1 ha was just 100 kg.


steep farmPlans for the Future

They are to have a discussion in regard to what they have seen and the information we have given them and will be in touch if they would like us to come back and do a more comprehensive FfF training.