Farming God’s Way

[I’ve been promising for months to tell you about Farming God’s Way, so here it is.  I tried to balance brevity, with enough info for the technical folks, with a relatively interesting style.  I definitely failed in the brevity, but many of you have been interested, so I want you to have complete information. If you just want pictures from our land, scroll down and skip the words. I write this post from my own experience with Farming God’s Way, and I do not speak in an official capacity.  Visit the official website at www.farming-gods-way.org.]

To some people this name – Farming God’s Way – may sound pretentious.  After all, who can make such a claim? But did you ever stop to think about how God “farms”?  Look at the land he cares for where no human disturbs or cultivates it.  Think of the lush forests which boast flourishing, diverse species without our intervention.  The ground is not ploughed, and the soil is covered with rich, natural mulch. Now compare that to the way we attempt to grow plants. We turn the soil upside down (ploughing) and often remove any plant material from the surface so that we can see the beautiful brown soil (but actually, we rob the soil of nutrients while exposing it to erosion and moisture evaporation).  In most of Africa this is accompanied by burning land in order to remove pests and weeds/brush and to gain short-term benefit of the ash in the soil (more nutrient theft, wasting of natural mulch and ecosystem destruction).  Do you see the difference?

Farming God’s Way (FGW) attempts to imitate the natural systems that God has put in place.  The technological principles of FGW are:

  1. Do not plough,
  2. Do not burn or incorporate “God’s blanket” (i.e. mulch & natural litter)
  3. Practice crop rotations.

If you’ve been around agriculture for any time, you will likely recognize these concepts as what is called “conservation agriculture”.  But Farming God’s Way is far more than a technology. Rather, it is “a well-balanced biblical, management and technological solution for the agricultural domain, [for the poor] to come out of poverty with what God has put in their hands, and to reveal the fullness of His promised abundant life.”

The six biblical keys of Farming God’s Way are:

  1. Acknowledge God and God alone
  2. You are the Temple of the Living God
  3. Understanding God’s All-sufficiency
  4. What You Sow You Will Reap
  5. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse
  6. You are the temple of the living God
  7. Stake your claim [exercise spiritual authority]

Additionally, FGW stresses conscientious management by teaching farmers to do everything:

  1. On time,
  2. To a high standard and
  3. With minimal wastage.

You can easily recognize FGW being implemented in the fields, by its distinct grid pattern.  Spacing varies by climate, but in much of sub-Saharan Africa, maize is planted in small stations (two plants per hole) 60cm apart, with rows spaced at 75cm. Beans and other crops with smaller spacing requirements are planted in continuous small furrows which again are spaced 75cm apart.  By carefully marking out your FGW plot you can use the same planting stations or rows each season.  If you carefully lay out your field you can clearly see row, columns and even diagonals! Many benefits result from planting in the same stations, including utilizing nutrients left over from previous season, softer soil with better aeration, and better water infiltration through old root tunnels. The equal spacing between rows regardless of the crop variety allows for easy crop rotation while still maintaining the grid work.

By using Farming God’s Way, farmers have seen drastic increases in crop yields. And as they have allowed Scripture to transform their minds and hearts, the whole of their lives has been transformed.

Here is Dickson’s Shuwali’s story:  “Dickson lives in a rural poverty stricken area called the Lower Shire in Malawi. Food aid streams into the area every year and the plight of the poor just gets worse. Dickson’s father used to get an average of just three 50kg bags from the acre he handed on to Dickson as his inheritance. In his first year of doing Farming God’s Way they had a severe drought, but still managed to harvest 5 bags, where 4 of those came from a small area where he had put God’s blanket down. His neighbours all around him harvested very little and some nothing at all. In his 2nd year he got 45 bags; 3rd year 54 bags & 4th year 69 bags. That is a 23 fold yield increase!!! Dickson is walking in God’s promises where God said ‘we would have life more abundantly.’”

So what exactly does FGW look like?  At God’s Care Ministries, we have two small FGW plots. Here’s a photo log of the work:

Digging the holes (i.e. planting stations) for maize.

The “lower plot” with holes and furrows dug. We are putting cow manure in the holes for fertilizer. This land was burnt before I arrived. The charred stumps remain. Disclaimer: I’m a bit embarrassed to show this field with the stumps in it. They should have been removed, but we’ll do that before the next season.

The lower plot after we applied a thick cover of “God’s blanket”. We had to cut and carry grass from the swamp since no vegetation had been left on the land.

Weeding and proactive management is key. On the “upper plot” we have fought hard against a tenacious, creeping grass. We are hopeful that we may have gained the upper hand now.

The results of the weeding efforts!!! These are the beans on our upper plot.

Maize rows in our lower plot.

Here you can see the maize “columns”. We are proudly standing in our freshly weeded lower plot.

And you’ll have to believe me that the diagonal lines are also visible when viewing the field in person. You can see them a bit from this photo.

We even plant a small garden of sweet corn in the FGW style. It seems to be quite happy! My college biology prof told me never to attribute anthropomorphic qualities to plants, but I can’t help it in this instance.

Well, I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about Farming God’s Way and seeing our progress on it so far.  We hope to begin FGW trainings in the surrounding communities soon.

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Posted on May 9, 2012, in Agriculture, Farming God's Way, Heart for Uganda, Uganda, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Margo H McGilvrey

    Emily, thank you very interesting. I have been curious about Farming God’s way and this was very informative. Hope you are well and continue to do good work. Margo

  2. John and Margy Port

    The results of your diligent efforts are magnificent! The yields should feed all of Kyenjojo, with the first sweet corn for you and Alissa and your fine agricultural team! God is being glorified with this project!

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