Field work– Using worn out hoes and pitchforks with missing tines, we have hacked our way through the this mountainside dirt to build a garden as well as an extremely tall compost pile. We have gathered hay, scooped barrels full of manure, and battled the mice to collect old corn cobs to create piles for future fertilizer. Although the tools have been less-than-perfect, the temperatures very hot, and the work at times very stinky- we have thoroughly enjoyed sweating in the sun shoulder to shoulder with our fellow classmates. Bafiti and Layla seem to take turns providing background music from their phones so when we’re not joking with one another or complaining about the flies, we can hear Botswana radio interspersed with pop-punk hits. Field work can be fun in community.
Field trips: We have taken several field trips away from the farm here to see the former students back at home in their fields. There is a two-fold purpose in these trips: one is for us to see the neatly laid-out farms built on natural resources, beautifully producing much needed vegetables, beans, and grain. Secondly, we are able to encourage the farms to keep up the hard work in their fields. Those who use the sustainable practices taught here at Growing Nations often feel alone. Most of their neighbors continue to over-plow and over-graze the land, so these conservative famers may be mocked in their own communities. We go to pray with them, to meet their families, and to encourage them that more Africans are taking on the training and are desiring to preserve the land as well.
The field trips are fantastic- in a way. The journeys have been long and hard with those pesky, twisty-turny roads that start as pavement then turn to gravel, then to dirt, and finally we are completely off-road driving down narrow paths meant for walking- bouncing over river bottoms, up and down grassy hillsides and sometimes we even jet across broad landscapes of wildflowers where grazing cattle and and the occasional shepherd may greet us. As we get out and start walking, we are met by school children who follow us to the farms, wishing to hold our hands or snap a selfie with us. They stand with us out of curiosity while we listen to the testimonies of the farmers who meet us in their fields. I love seeing the Basotho people take great pride in their land as they recount how they are growing enough to feed not only their families, but the local orphanages or schools as well. It is undeniable that the farming practices we are learning work in the real world too!
Field Day! Last Friday was very important for this community where we live. The Growing Nations compound hosted a Field Day for all kind of folks to come witness all the projects, educational opportunities and farming techniques that are promoted here. The grounds were immaculately mowed, tents were erected, and the fields stood tall as if they knew they, too, were on display. Many visitors came to see the farm and the demonstrations, including dignitaries like the minister of Agriculture, as well as former students and local farmers. Near the end of the day, just before we served a very late lunch- there was a time for speeches in which the dignitaries spoke to the people in the Sesotho language. And just before the crowd sang the Lesotho national anthem, it was announced that a special guest would a speak- a bearded man from America who farmed on a large scale. It was Jeff! He then took the stage while the national television camera focused in on him. Using an interpreter, Jeff encouraged the African farmers by saying that conservation agriculture is extremely important world-wide. He stated that even in America on large-scale farms that practices such as no-till planting, crop rotation, the use of cover crops and integrated pest management were vital to help preserve soil health and minimize environmental impact. He did a wonderful job encouraging and exhorting the famers for the steps they are taking to help increase Africa’s food production.
It is a joy to farm beside brothers and sister here in Africa. Please pray these farming practices will catch on so more producers can help heal Africa’s soils and make strides in restoring health across the land.
Thank you for your enduring love and prayers as we go into our final week of training here.