In March 2010 Mark Devaraj travelled from India to Zimbabwe to be trained in Foundations for Farming. He already had an agricultural qualification and the vision of the leaders in India was to have a ‘champion’ who could train others as a means of blessing communities and opening them up for the gospel.
Recently Mark had a visit from the originator and visionary of Foundations for Farming, Brian Oldreive. Mark has given me an update.
The last 12 months
After returning from Zimbabwe a year ago, I immediately planted a series of well-watered gardens to try growing maize using Foundations for Farming methods to see how it worked in our soil and climate. The results were really encouraging, and I went on to plant a larger area of about an acre. We saw yields of about 6.3 metric tonnes which is 3½ times the national average of 1.8 tonnes!
In August we held our first training sessions for 15 farmers and church leaders from across India. Alan and Mikael Norton joined us from Zimbabwe. A number of those who attended have gone back and planted well-watered gardens and even larger areas according to Foundations for Farming methods, and have even shown interest in using this vision to bless and reach out to poor farmers in their locality.
We then dedicated a 2.5 acre plot of land here in the village to be used for setting up a Foundations for Farming Centre of Excellence.
We have built a small training centre with funding from Newfrontiers where we have an office and a room for running training sessions with farmers. Brian opened and dedicated the Lighthouse, and shared a meal of celebration with church members and other friends. The building is looking great, and is a great attraction in the village.
We are currently establishing various trial plots and starting some research, especially into alternative ways of growing rice without flooding the fields, thereby saving water. We have one plot watered using drip irrigation, and one using watering channels. Both have come on well. Local farmers have been amazed to see rice grown in this way and we are keen to keep researching this; it uses much less water than a flooded field.
We are currently in the middle of our first intensive 2-week training course with a young man from YKMM church in Nasik. Sharath is very enthusiastic about Foundations for Farming and is going back to champion the vision among poor farmers in Maharashtra State. We are hoping to train groups of farmers three times a year, our next 4-day course being scheduled for June 23rd.
The only constraint we face at present is accommodation for trainees. While we can accommodate very small numbers very basically, we have no facilities for larger groups, and due to our remote location there is no alternative place to house them.
This week we had a surprise visit from a journalist from a Tamil Agriculture magazine. He was in the area covering another story, but saw our signpost and came in to see what we were doing. We ended up talking for over an hour and I shared with him the vision of Foundations for Farming. He was very impressed with the crops, took some photos and is planning to write about us in the next edition.
The Centre is slowly coming together and we look forward to training and changing lives. A few verses from Ezekiel 36: 33-36 describe what has happened on this piece of land, and we believe this will happen on a large scale to the nation.