Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food For Life

"Food For Life" is an amazing land-based Mercy Ships program, which teaches local farmers organic technique's. I was able to visit a few weeks ago. Here is the resulting story/photos.

"Food For Life” Agriculture Training Program

Jean Claude Mouditou has always loved agriculture. “Agriculture is a part of my life. It’s something that is very precious to me,” he said. Utilizing his education and experience, Jean Claude is spreading this passion to farmers in Benin.

Every day, he leads 30 men and women, equipped with machetes and tall rubber boots, into the fields of the recently constructed Bethesada Community Development Agriculture Training Center in Hévié, Benin. Jean Claude is running a three-month agriculture training program, “Food for Life,” which teaches farmers biblical, organic, agricultural skills in nutrition and crop production.
“We begin the day at 8 a.m. in the morning,” said Mouditou. “First, we learn a lesson in the classroom. Then, we go to the farm to practically apply what we learned. Usually we work in the fields until 5:30 p.m.”
In Benin, many farmers practice misguided agricultural techniques, which decrease crop production. The inability to adequately produce food largely contributes to poverty and diminished health, a problem which has been specifically targeted by the government.
“Our system is very different from the traditional practices of farmers. Farmers think you need to burn the land and use harmful insecticides. But with our system, we are teaching farmers to use the material and principles. These techniques have not been seen before,” explained Mouditou.
Both students and community members have been surprised by the efficiency of Mouditou’s agricultural principles.
“Using local seed and organic farming principles, we grew corn in six weeks. Normally, it takes farmers 3 to 4 months to grow a crop. The corn we grew was much larger than the local farmers. It was a very big surprise to the community. Never before have they seen anything like what we are doing,” said Mouditou.
Both the “Food For Life” program and the training center are the result of a partnership between Mercy Ships and Bethesda, a Benin-based NGO (non-governmental organization). Bethesda will oversee the continued use of the training center for agricultural development when Mercy Ships leaves Benin.
Thirty farmers are currently enrolled. Seven have been training with Jean Claude throughout the past six months, being educated to become agriculture trainers. In conjunction with Bethesda, the trainers will conduct “Food For Life” after Mercy Ships leaves Benin. Already, they have begun taking ownership of the program.

“The seven trainers are doing most of the teaching now. At the moment, everything is going very well. I am here to support and answer any questions they have,” said Mouditou. “I am so excited to see those I trained are able to lead the program and train others.”
Each farmer involved has made a commitment to share their newly acquired knowledge with other farmers, creating a lasting impact on Benin’s agricultural community.

One of the students spoke for the group saying, “Thank you, Mercy Ships, for giving us the opportunity to attend this training for free. We are determined to finish this training, no matter what difficulties we face, to help our country to reduce the problem of poverty.”
Mouditou is excited about the progress of the students. He considers it a great privilege to serve God with his agricultural knowledge.
“The Bible says Apollo planted the seed and Paul watered it, but the Lord grew the seed. We can obey and put the seed in the ground, but the Lord grows it,” said Mouditou. “Through the program, students are discovering the Lord. They can see the beauty of the Lord through agriculture. I am so grateful to be a part of that.”

1 comment:

taihapedude said...

Great photos and writing Meg. You are da' bomb!