“I commit myself to go back and train my community, so that production in Congo can change for the better.” -Gastele, a Food for Life participant.
Garden Valley, TX (PRWEB) April 22, 2014
Earth Day commemorates an effort to “… inform and energize populations so they will act to secure a healthy future for themselves and their children.” Mercy Ships agriculturalists work alongside the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, which is currently docked in the Republic of Congo. Their Nutritional Agriculture program, often referred to as the Food for Life program, aligns with the goals of Earth Day by training trainers in sustainable and green farming practices. Instructors model green farming techniques, which are safer and more productive for families, communities and the environment. After participants graduate from the Mercy Ships agricultural course, they return to their communities and train other farmers in the new techniques they have learned.
The most recent Mercy Ships training program mentored 25 trainers from communities all over the Republic of Congo. Classroom and field lessons included crop production, animal science, nutrition, food preservation, natural pesticide use and composting. They also learned organic gardening and techniques to save both resources and finances – how to create and use natural mulch to reduce water use, and how to accurately calculate the amount of seeds needed to plant a plot of land.
“The only way to make all of these lessons successful is if we equip participants with communication tools for development. This helps them know how to identify issues in their communities and address them,” stated Eliphaz Essah, from the West African country of Benin. He is the Mercy Ships Nutritional Agricultural Facilitator. Trainees learned development tools, such as how to write a business plan and how to have good time management skills.
During the graduation ceremony, Gastele, a female student, took the microphone and expressed her gratitude for having learned the intricate relationship between agriculture and health. “I understand now that, by using commercial fertilizer and pesticides, we are harming our bodies and destroying the land,” she said with emotion. “I commit myself to go back and train my community, so that production in Congo can change for the better.”
Gastele’s words were echoed by another participant, a man named Boniface: “We used to spend a lot of money to buy commercial fertilizer and insecticide, but we have learned that we can use natural insecticides, like tobacco, ginger, and garlic, and we can compost for fertilizer.” Boniface motioned around his feet and added, “Now we use the grass that grows around us. These do not cost us anything, and we have better results.”
Ken Winebark, Mercy Ships Nutritional Agriculture Program Administrator, states that, “The success we are seeing in our Nutritional Agriculture training, I believe, stems from what we find in our natural surroundings. We are blessed with a renewable source of ’green‘ nutrients from the earth. We harvest those nutrients and input them into our food production plan as compost. We also use them as mulch which helps to feed as well as temper the soil, provide a great microbial home, conserve water and reduce erosion. This makes for healthy plants! We couple that with using natural concoctions of garlic, onions, hot peppers, tobacco and the like to deter insects. You end up with nutritious fruit and vegetables, and the environment and our bodies are not harmed with chemicals.”
As many celebrate Earth Day around the world, farmers in rural communities in Africa are putting green practices in place that will improve their families’ health and clean up the environment for generations to come.
ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.42 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 35 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on http://www.mercyships.org
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