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BLOG: Surprised and delighted by a phone call from Tanzania

By Susie Weldon, July 23, 2013:

ARC's Susie Weldon on a visit to farming projects in Uganda

I was heading home from work near Bath, UK, the other day when I got the best call I'd had for weeks. I didn’t recognise the number but I knew it was from Africa. The voice on the line was Judith Atamba, a minister with the Methodist Church in Tanzania.

The last time I'd spoken to Judith was 14 months earlier, after she'd made the two-day trek from her post near Lake Victoria in Tanzania to attend a workshop I’d organised in Kenya on Farming God’s Way.  

And now here she was on my mobile phone, her voice full of enthusiasm. “I want to tell you I’ve been going everywhere preaching about Farming God’s Way,” she shouted down the crackly line. “I tell everyone about it – and now I have managed to get a good piece of land to set up demonstration farms.”  

Farming God’s Way, for those who’ve never come across it before, is a Christian approach to sustainable farming which says we need to put God back into agriculture. Farming is an honourable profession, it says, because God was the First Farmer, and a healthy, productive and well cared for landscape should be a testimony to the Christian faith.  

This is a message that’s badly needed in Africa where so many farmers feel demoralised and worthless, the least important members of society – and often the poorest. The great news about Farming God’s Way is that as well as restoring dignity to farmers, it also boosts crop yields. In the words of Kenya-based Farming God’s Way trainer Craig Sorley, it is farming that “brings glory to God and hope to the hungry”.  

Practical experience during the Farming God's Way workshop in Kenya
Judith was one of 50 Methodist and Presbyterian faith leaders who attended the three-day workshop with Craig in Kijabe, Kenya, in May 2012. Last week, having exchanged email addresses during our phone conversation, she wrote to me: “Surely, Susie, I thank you plus Craig because before the seminar I contributed in diminishing the wonderful creation of God. But because you helped me know the truth, I have joined hands with those who love the planet in order to restore the land. 

"I use everybody to restore our land; my pupils at school, local farmers, church members, etc. This September 200 pupils will plant at least one tree and will take care of it. They will also recite poems on indigenous trees before their parents during [school] closing day on 2 August. I have talked to local farmers and I do hope that I will do better after my demonstration farms will come into use. Although the response is not 100%, I thank God that some have started practicing Farming God's Way.”  

I felt overwhelmed and humbled by Judith’s passion and commitment – a reaction I often feel when it comes to our African faith partners. I’m in Uganda right now where as well as helping Christian groups promote Farming God’s Way, ARC is working with Muslim groups to develop Farming in Allah’s Way, an Islamic approach to sustainable agriculture.  

And I can’t wait for the phone calls in two or three years’ time saying, ‘yes, this really worked!”

Links to further reading

Farming Gods Way (Oct 12)

Faith in Food project page

Arc Africa Newsletter (March 2013)

Partnership development with Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture

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ARC Africa Faiths Newsletters
Newsletter that links Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith groups in sub-Saharan Africa developing long-term action plans on the environment.
Faith in food
Faith in Food is about people of faith honouring their values in the food they eat. Food has always played a central role in religious life – in worship and celebration, through foods that are sacred, prasad or forbidden, and in communion and Passover, Ramadan and harvest festivals.
October 22, 2012:
ARC holds a Farming God's Way workshop in Kenya
ARC has held a second successful workshop on a faith-based form of sustainable agriculture, called Farming God's Way, for Christian faith leaders in Kenya.