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Farming God's way

By Gideon Heugh | 23 Jan 2020

New laws being introduced to the UK could help shift farming to being more environmentally friendly. But many communities in developing countries are already a step ahead…

Last week, the UK Parliament introduced a new Agriculture Bill, representing one of the biggest shifts in farming practices in decades.

Central to the new law is a pledge to pay farmers to look after their land in a way that is good for the environment – protecting soil fertility, encouraging wildlife, ensuring clean air and water, and keeping carbon in the ground rather than fuelling climate change. Previous legislation encouraged farmers to work the land more intensively, prioritising short term yields over sustainability.

But what does this have to do with Tearfund? Well, thanks to an innovative scheme run by our local church partners, many communities we work with are a step ahead when it comes to farming in a way that looks after God’s creation.

Working with nature
In many developing countries, sustainable farming practices can be a matter of life and death. The climate crisis is making extreme weather events such as droughts more common, and farmers have to be prepared.

An initiative called ‘Farming God’s way’ is helping them do just that.

At the heart of the initiative is the practice of ‘mulching’. Essentially, the soil is covered in a layer of dead leaves and grass. This helps retain the soil’s moisture, which is crucial in harsh climates. When these materials decay, their nutrients are passed into the soil. The need for extensive ploughing, which is labour intensive and can damage the health of the soil, is eliminated. This mimics natural processes – hence ‘farming God’s way’.

Answered prayers
The results can be life-changing. Moyo*, a father of four from Malawi, spent much of his life in a near constant state of hunger. Prolonged droughts meant he couldn’t harvest enough either to feed his family or sell to make a living. His children couldn’t go to school as he was unable to pay the fees.

When one of Tearfund’s local partners taught him about Farming God’s Way, all that changed. Within two years, he had quadrupled the yield of his crop. Now he has more than enough to go around. What's more, he’s teaching other members of his community the same methods.

‘God answers prayers,’ Moyo tells us. ‘I could not imagine coming out of my poverty and hunger-stricken situation. I would encourage people to hold on to their faith, as one day God will visit them.’

An act of worship
As well as higher crop yields, Farming God’s Way produces benefits to people such as improved income from the sale of surplus food, reduced manual labour, and greater resilience to climate change. It’s great for the environment too, with outcomes such as healthier soil, erosion control, water conservation, and keeping carbon in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.

Farmers like Moyo are encouraged to see their work not merely as something they need to do to survive, but as a spiritual vocation. Producing food is a way of glorifying God and loving your neighbour, and caring for the soil is an act of worship.

At a time of environmental crisis, such an approach is deeply necessary. Soil is essential for human life, so we need to look after it. For too long that hasn’t been the case, but now there are reasons to hope.

PLEASE PRAY

*Name changed to protect identity.

You can help support projects like Farming God’s Way by connecting your church to one of our partners overseas. Find out more here.

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Photo of Gideon Heugh

Written by Gideon Heugh


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