Global Ministries’ missionary Mozart Adevu (right) watches over training participants as they learn how to select quality Moringa leaves for drying and processing.
February 13, 2014—Knowledge is power.
That is one of the foundations of the Sustainable Agriculture and Development (SA&D) program of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). It is through training and education that communities can alleviate hunger and poverty, strengthen resources, and become self-sufficient, says Global Ministries missionary Mozart Adevu.
“Unlike other development efforts that provide funding and material support as central activities,” Adevu said, “the SA&D program emphasizes training and the acquisition of knowledge and skills, which are more useful and valuable in the long term.
“Knowledge cannot be destroyed by war, stolen, or otherwise separated from the individual,” he said. “Should livelihoods be disrupted for reasons of war or natural disasters, people will have the knowledge to restart their productive activities.”
Adevu points to Liberia and Sierra Leone, where civil war displaced many communities. “Those who received the SA&D training were able to more quickly restore their livelihoods with minimal or no external support,” he said.
One of the goals of Global Ministries and UMCOR is to help communities become self-sufficient and learn the skills needed to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, empowering communities forever, Adevu said.
“Communities that have knowledge and skills can be independent and self-sustaining,” he said. “They develop the capacity of their human resources, improve their economic capacity and their own local economies, and will eventually bring greater prosperity to the communities.”
Nutritional, Medicinal Moringa
In December, Adevu, his wife, Janet Mina, and Harold Tengbe of Sierra Leone held a training in El Daein, East Darfur, Sudan. Participants were introduced to the Moringa tree, which provides food, medicine, and water purification. “Moringa is currently known as the single most nutritious plant on the face of the earth,” Adevu said.
“Time was spent explaining how the daily consumption of Moringa could provide all the trace elements, major nutrients, and amino acids for the proper functioning of the body,” he said. Through the introduction of Moringa, the recommended daily allowances of these nutrients could be made available to communities, thus combating malnutrition.
In Sudan, where more than 30 percent of the population reports it worries about where the next meal will come from, the five-day training was greeted with awe, Adevu said. “UMCOR will work with [Sudan’s'] Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry to nurture and plant Moringa tree seedlings in targeted areas. One thousand of the 10,000 seedlings that are to be planted during the rainy season will be planted in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP), targeted by UMCOR.
Additionally, UMCOR will work with local farmers, NGO partner staff, and Ministry of Agriculture staff to educate 4,000 women, at least 10 percent of them in IDP camps, on cooking methods for different parts of the Moringa tree and on Moringa’s nutritional benefits. UMCOR has already planted 3,000 seedlings in partnership with the El Daein Forestry Department.
Community-Centered and Sustainable
Like other programs promoted by the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program office of UMCOR, the SA&D Program is community-centered and ensures that technologies are appropriate to the community, socially just, economically feasible, and self-sustaining.
“The primary goal is to achieve economic and social development in rural communities through agricultural production and related activities,” Adevu said.
The SA&D model represents a radical departure from traditional church-based approaches to rural community development, equipping communities with the skills, knowledge, and technical services needed to increase food production yields and diversity, increase community food security and incomes, and improve household self-sustainability, he said.
“This program operates in partnership with local churches and communities and not as an external entity operating in isolation,” he said. “Over the past 10 years, rural communities in eight African countries—Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—have experienced increases in production, food availability, nutrition, and incomes as a result of these partnerships.”
For Adevu, UMCOR’s ministry of sustainable agriculture development “emulates Christ and His Church in empowering poor, hungry, and destitute communities, and by so doing, alleviates such deprivation and human suffering. [It] brings smiles and joy to households and communities just as Christ will do.”
One Great Hour of Sharing
UMCOR is a ministry of The United Methodist Church, and its administrative and operational costs are supported by offerings received through One Great Hour of Sharing and other undesignated gifts. These donations allow UMCOR to use 100 percent of designated contributions for project specific programs and crisis response.
“When UMCOR donors give their time, money, and supplies, they join UMCOR as the hands and feet of Christ,” Adevu said.
Most congregations celebrate One Great Hour of Sharing on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Resources such as church bulletin inserts, posters, and more are available here.
*Sandra Brands is a writer and regular contributor to www.umcmission.org.