Craig Deall, an official with Foundations for Farming, speaks passionately about how highly-mechanised agriculture, introduced in the hope of boosting food production across the globe, has experienced dismal failure.
Deall believes in taking notes from God’s manual on how to ensure that the earth continues to yield bountifully, and says the introduction of hi-tech equipment in farming has not abated the demon of hunger that continues to haunt the world.
Working the land, he said, was not just about agriculture, but righteousness and faithful stewardship.
Through their experiences at Foundations for Farming — previously known as Farming God’s Way — Deall said they now understood that in tilling the ground, there was no value addition, but the soil’s potential was actually undermined.
“Our technology is based on the zero tillage concepts,” Deall said. “We’ve learnt that you don’t really need to plough to make things grow. This is about going back to nature. We’re trying to emulate Creation.”
He said they had observed the life cycle in nature, where seeds just fall from trees into the ground, and eventually sprout out to grow again without any human intervention.
Their clarion call is that ploughing has no scientific basis as it actually destroys the soil structure. A ploughed field loses 90% — in run –off alone — of the rain that would have fallen.
On the other hand, Deall added, “rain infiltrates better into soil that is not tilled, as there is just 6% run-off, and keeps the mush on top.”
According to Brian Oldrieve, also of Foundations for Farming, their campaign had a bias towards the poor, who, incidentally, were “the greatest casualties of economic collapse”.
Oldrieve said the cause for the widespread poverty that plagued the world was not lack of sufficient resources, but selfishness.
He said real progress and development only came about when society uplifted the poor and the downtrodden, and that was a spiritual law.
“God says in Isaiah 58 that He looks at the heart. He says when you uplift the poor, I’ll hear you and help you,” he said.
Oldrieve spoke with conviction of his faith in Zimbabwe and the staggering results the country — long battered by a messy economic recession — will experience in the next few years, courtesy of their agriculture concept.
“We believe that when Zimbabwe prospers, it will so stun the world and this is incredibly exciting,” he said.
Farming for Foundations has partnered 72 prisons around the country in a bid to ensure successful output on prison farms.
Bennias Changunduma, the acting general manager for Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) projects, said they had started using the initiative on the farms and so far, the results were pleasing.
This system, according to Deall, was transcendental in terms of scale. “The system works from the small-scale farmer to the biggest commercial farmer and it suits all kinds of crops,” he said.
He added that they taught farmers to be faithful to the land and not to be dependent on inputs but to value the land and work on it lovingly if it was to produce. He said: “Give to the land in order to receive.”
The Ministry of Education has since asked Foundations for Farming to put together agriculture syllabi that would help in the teaching of the subject and other such life skills.
Currently, the programme is running in 23 African countries, and the interest, which was initially low, was now exploding. It has also trained over 4 000 Agritex officers in the hope of ensuring that the knowledge and skills trickle down to the grassroots, where the officers work with people mainly in rural villages.
The members have since branched out into high-density areas, churches and prisons where they preach this gospel of basic farming without significant agricultural inputs.
These, according to Oldrieve, are “simple heart issues”.
“When you walk with them (the people), live with them, they begin to trust you, because of that unselfishness and humility. This is what we are about. We are church-based, Bible-based, and we make no apologies,” he said.
The beauty about this concept is that overheads are minimal and profits are guaranteed.
Oldrieve said people needed to disabuse themselves of the notion that diamonds were going, in a dash, to heal the economic cancer that had beleaguered Zimbabwe over the past 10 or so years. The healing, he said boldly, lay in the soil.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Even if we have diamonds, remember their sale is controlled by a tight world system,” Oldrieve said.
The discovery of diamond deposits in Marange, which have put Zimbabwe under the international spotlight, have instilled hope that their sales were going to translate into significant benefits both for the economy and the ordinary person.
Foundations for Farming, said Oldrieve, were about re-building Zimbabwe God’s way, through agriculture.
While they started off as Farming God’s Ways, they had to modify the name along the way to accommodate people from other religious persuasions, which were not necessarily Christian. But the bottom line, Oldrieve said, is that God reigns over both the just and the unjust.
“When we started, it was an issue of faith — whether you believe or not, God is there. People have left God’s way, whether they are Christians or not,” he added.
Between 1995 and 2003, Zambia exported food for the first time after introducing this initiative into their agricultural system, and there had been huge buy-ins, with countries such as Malawi rising to levels where they could now feed themselves.
Farming God’s Way has a proven track record of 28 years and was initially designed by Oldrieve on Hinton Estate, a 3 500-hectare commercial farm. The farm was the second largest commercial farm in Zimbabwe.
Technology was thereafter made available to surrounding, predominantly subsistence, farmers.
Throughout the sub-continent success stories abound, in which farmers who adhered to the prescribed methods significantly improved their lives.
The results were radically improved crop-yields, provision for families and profitability, resulting in restoration of farmers’ self-worth.