What does a pound of sugar have to do with agricultural ministry?
Dan and Mary Vissani share how a pound of sugar has become an integral part in their ministry to farmers in Zambia.
What does a pound of sugar have to do with agricultural ministry? One clue is village field days, where we partner with faithful farmers and farmer groups in the village to help them hold a field day. During these half-day events, neighbors and friends gather at conspicuously well-maintained fields to hear about this new way of farming and life, mostly from the lips of their peers. Everyone at a field day would be very familiar with the traditional way of farming, which includes burning last year's crop residue, plowing, scattering seed and mono-cropping (planting the same crop in a field year after year). When the land inevitably loses fertility, farmers with the space will abandon that field and move on to another, cutting down huge numbers of trees in the process.
Farmers whom we have worked with, however, are learning a different approach—one founded in humble stewardship of their land. These farmers are beginning to understand the destructive nature of plowing (reducing soil fauna and aggregates) and the benefits of mulching and crop rotations (moisture conservation, reduced erosion, and increased fertility). They have also begun to see the wisdom in making compost, particularly thermal compost, which not only increases the humus in the soil but re-innoculates their tired soil with crucial microorganisms. Even more importantly, as farmers’ fields begin to submit to the design of their Creator, we are able to use them as a picture of how each of our hearts must likewise submit to the design of its Creator. Many times, their fields are a night-and-day contrast with their neighbors’, sparking curiosity, conversations, and sincere interest. These village field days are an opportunity to multiply our effectiveness by allowing faithful farmers to take the lead in teaching their peers.
Another clue to what the sugar is all about is a popular fermented maize drink called munkoyo, which is frequently served at the end of field days to cement relationships and provide a boost of energy. We are committed to the sustainability of these field days--we want them to outlive us!--so we intentionally refrain from providing extensive catering or high-tech presentations. All we chip in are some leaflets and (you guessed it) a few pounds of sugar for the munkoyo.