Yesterday, on the way home from visiting a community that will participate in World Renews agriculture programming, we were again reminded of God’s promises, His faithfulness and His provision as we witnessed the warm rains falling on newly planted seeds and a rainbow reminding us of God’s promises and His love for all people throughout the world.
Jannetta and I recently attended a week-long Conservation Agriculture conference in Harare, Zimbabwe hosted by the Canadian Food Grains Bank. The theme of the week long trainings, networking and sharing was “Building on Diversity". Diverse....it sure was. We were a minority among our African brothers and sisters but we were very welcome to represent World Renew Tanzania along with our Tanzania based Agriculture Programming partners. Delegates from 14 African countries were present....from Republic of Congo, South Africa, Lesotho, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania. At times it felt like being around during the "tower of Babel” with many languages being spoken. Praying and singing together was meaningful complete with dancing and chanting. The cultural diversity found in Africa is exciting for us to be part of.
Tanzania is one of the target countries identified by the Canadian Government in terms of financial support to alleviate the issue of food security. World Renew has an excellent reputation of delivering programming to rural communities and introducing new agricultural practices to small holder farmers who are struggling to produce enough food to feed their families. Phil's work over the past 3 years has largely been in the area of supporting the agriculture training and capacity building training that World Renew offers through partners here in Tanzania. Signs of progress are out there but farming continues to be a challenge...with either drought or floods or infestation of the crops by disease and/or pests. Add to this mix the rampaging of maturing crops by wild pigs, elephants, and hippopotamus or by the goats and cows of pastoralist Maasai people who believe that cows are a gift from God and that their cows can eat whatever, whenever and from whomever they wish.
Canadian Food Grains Bank CFGB (Winnipeg, Canada) invited us to attend the conference and network with other faith based organizations from Eastern and Southern Africa. CFGB funds food assistance projects, agriculture and livelihood projects and nutrition projects. CFGB also advocates within Canada at both the national and international level for changes within public policy that enables families and communities to better feed themselves.
We were able to meet with CFGB staff who administers the funds made available from partner churches, funds that are then matched by the Canadian Government. We also met with World Renews International Disaster Relief (IDR) team who are currently very active in Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa where a six month long drought has left many rural families with no crops to harvest.
Our World Renew colleagues working in Malawi and Zambia tell us that many farmers in these countries are suffering from the effects of climate change. Some early rains encouraged farmers to plant early, and those who took that risk planted in November. The traditional planting month is December so the majority of farmers planted then. But with little to no rains, there was poor plant germination and today one can only witness fields that are brown with some dried up plants that did not have a chance to grow.
It continues to be an eye opening experience for us to see the work that is being done on the ground here in Eastern and Southern Africa in bringing food relief to the hungry and working with communities that struggle daily with securing food. We are touched to see the work of World Renew and World Renews Disaster Relief efforts, work that can only be accomplished through the support of the generous donations of the CFGB partner churches and donors.
Reasons for praise:
We are thankful for good health and safety in our travels and in our work. We are nearing the end of our third term of volunteering in Tanzania and the work has been very meaningful.
We are excited to welcome two new Tanzanian staff members to the Mwanza based World Renew team. Agriculture programming will be a key component of World Renews initiatives in this region for the next four years.
Please pray for an end to the drought situation in many African countries.
Please pray for safety as we travel back to Canada from March 17-19.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Phil and Jannetta VandenBerg
World Renew Tanzania