For a project created to fight hunger, you might assume that the main goal would be to fill empty stomachs. But the ultimate goal for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) food security work in this area is to grow resilience in the communities it serves. One project has delivered success as never before in 16 countries across Africa, ADRA leaders recently reported.
As the potential devastation of the global COVID-19 pandemic first became evident, ADRA’s Africa Regional Office partnered with Adventist women’s ministries and youth departments across the 16 countries to try to ensure communities wouldn’t go hungry during the crisis.ADRA’s expertise and the church’s resources came together to train women and young people to plant sustainable household and community gardens. In turn, these volunteers trained others in their communities and also provided seeds and gardening tools, taught cooking classes, and spread awareness about preventing COVID-19 and reducing disaster risk.
Time and time again, the results showed that people were able to feed themselves and their families from these gardens; they were also able to earn money by selling excess produce and providing for neighbors. The techniques they were learning ensured that the gardens they planted were climate-safe and sustainable. Also, the additional training they received taught them how to get the most from their produce.
ADRA’s team in Zambia referred to their involvement with the project as “garden evangelism” as they built connections with the people in their communities and put compassion into action to serve. In Zambia alone, ADRA trained 90 youth and women in areas hardest hit by the pandemic, and those 90 people spread the word and trained more than 600 others in their communities.“In this project, it will not stop here. We pray that God continues giving us knowledge and wisdom so that we can help each other,” Yorantha, one of the youth leaders in Zambia, said. “And we even encourage those out there, those who ADRA trains, don’t just go home and sit on that gift which we are given. Let’s work on them. Like, if we don’t have the land, we were also taught how to plant in the sack, in used bottles we can also use. No one can give an excuse like, we don’t have the land. We are trained in everything. So, we thank ADRA. May the spirit continue, and may God continue providing for them, so they continue to empower more people.”
This cascading success was the same in every country, exceeding goals by more than 950 percent in some areas. Families and communities were able to provide for themselves and truly be resilient in the midst of a global crisis.
This project became a success for many reasons, but here are a few highlights, according to the initiative leaders.
First, church partnerships were important. The close partnerships between ADRA and the Adventist women’s ministries and youth departments meant combined resources, knowledge, energy, and reach to make a greater impact.Second, it was community led. “We like to say that ADRA plants the seeds for success, but in this case, we just provided the seeds!” ADRA leaders explained. “Once we did the initial training, community members were not only able to provide for themselves but they were also empowered to share their knowledge and build resilience in their communities.”
Then, multiple outcomes became evident. The main goal was to make sure people stayed nourished and healthy during the pandemic, but the gardens also provided income for those who sold excess produce. Also, community members took part in cooking classes to maximize their healthy harvests and received training in disaster risk reduction.
Finally, the project showed the importance of loving one’s neighbor. “We loved hearing about newly trained gardeners sharing produce with other community members who couldn’t provide for themselves or had fallen sick,” ADRA leaders said. “Many also went out of their way to train others who wanted to learn gardening and strategize with neighbors to grow complementary crops.”