Farming for Life

January 22, 2014

Alexis Harrison and Bruce Piercey (Project Information Coordinator and Regional Director – Eurasia) get technical about Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s sustainable food program.

A great irony is at play in the global hunger crisis: the majority of the hungry are farming families—small landholders who in theory should be able to feed themselves, but in practice cannot.

Small-scale farms in the developing world simply aren’t sustainable when conventional methods tend to rob farmer and field of income and nutrients. Sky-high input costs of commercial seed and fertilizer drive farmers’ net incomes into the ground. Price shocks from mono-cropping can cripple those who don’t diversify. Meanwhile the land itself is often fighting its own losing battle against soil damage and erosion, loss of forest cover, and lack of water.

Considering how little is left come harvest, it’s no wonder families go hungry—or choose to leave their land only to unwittingly succumb to unsafe migration patterns that feed human trafficking.

The problems may seem vast, but the solution Samaritan’s Purse Canada is exploring is as grassroots as the small farms we’re serving. At its heart are engaged local churches that are nurturing environments ripe for learning. The churches’ leaders form the trusting relationships needed in order for a process of change to succeed. They provide a safe place where farm families can meet to share knowledge old and new, and in doing so, they foster a newfound sense of Christ-like community.

That is when techniques like natural composting, companion planting, growing “green manure”, using bio-char and wood vinegar, rotating crops, and implementing shade trees can be learned, and then actualized. These sustainable methods reduce input costs, improve soil health, supplement families’ diets, and reduce vulnerability to economic fluctuations.

Ultimately, families refocus their agriculture on farming for life—for the earth and each other, to the glory of God.

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