Oct6ThuOctober 6, 2016
The rains can be torrential. The riverbeds and gullies flood as the water races to the sea. The dry, thirsty ground absorbs it and for a time there is green but soon, too soon, the rains are gone and waterways are dry as a bone. Kenya, like many countries in the developing world has a critical water problem - a problem of quantity and quality. The forests that hold the water and the soil and moderate the climate have been decimated – less than 2% of Kenya is forested. Consequently the rains are less certain and sometimes fail altogether. Without rain, the crops will fail; without crops the people die. Something must be done. Thank God for what is being done right now through agencies like the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).
CFGB sponsored a learning tour to Kenya in July 2016 in which representatives from seven of the 15 member churches or church related agencies participated. The objective was to deepen our understanding of both the issues and the solutions for ending world hunger. CFGB has been leading a campaign asking the Canadian government to return funding for international agricultural aid to former levels. So many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are well addressed by a focus on grassroots support of small-scale farmers. But governments are not alone in making a difference. There is a remarkable and encouraging level of cooperation and partnership that involves many levels of governments as well as many community and non-governmental agencies.
SASOL, for example, is an agency based in the Kenyan County of Kitui, supported largely by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a member of CFGB. SASOL is committed to empowering ‘vulnerable communities through the enhancement of local structures and skills to improve their livelihoods.’ They help people with real solutions to everyday problems, like getting water.
We went to meet a self-help group organized by SASOL that had constructed a “sand dam.” Making our way along a dry, sandy riverbed, a few green trees close to our destination were the only clue to the hidden reservoir of life-giving water. We saw a flat bed of sand retained by the concrete wall of a low dam, and we saw a pump, but we saw no water. This is a sand dam.
Elijah, the chairman explained how they organized, how they built the dam, and how they manage the water supply. With some guidance and support from SASOL Elijah’s group dug down to bedrock, and with stones and concrete, built the dam wall with their own hands. Next they sunk a well on the upstream side of the dam and installed a pump. When the rains come, the upstream side of the dam silts in and water is trapped. The sand keeps the water from evaporating and keeps it clean. The group had made a roughhewn plaque with the names of the workers and dedicated their work to the Lord Jesus.
From that first season, the wellhead has given them enough water for their daily needs. Each family can fill 8 containers of water for their daily use. This, along with conservation agriculture has given them hope for the future and confidence that they can make it. A stream bed can have many sand dams spaced along its length.
Some training and resourcing from SASOL, some hope driven initiative and hard work from the self-help group and the results are life giving – clean water to drink and to farm, a renewed sense of hope, substantial improvement in the harvest, a community that has learned to work together to better themselves, and a small but meaningful environmental change for the better -- a green oasis where the tree roots reach down into the hidden waters and becomes the host micro-climate for other plants and creatures to return.
As our group continued their tour, I lingered to chat with Elijah and Bishop Michael Oulton. Elijah was curious about the reason for our visit. He wanted us to know that he was a ‘believer’, that is, every aspect of his life, including this work of building the dam and managing the water supply and eking out a living was in the confidence that he was serving the Lord Jesus. The water in the ground was a metaphor for his life as a believer:
Psa. 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
All of life was a single fabric; it was his life lived before God. It motivated him and sustained him.
He was expressing the truth that the Apostle Paul had expressed in Ephesians 2:10
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Scripture teaches that every person on earth is here for a purpose, and that God has prepared good works for each of us to do. We met many good people doing good work and many people who were blessed by that effort.
Our new friend, Elijah, was encouraged to understand that we too, were a people of faith, and that we were also motivated by the same God-given impulse. And we were there to see and to report back to our people in Canada, and to let our government know that its contributions to agricultural aid were making a difference. And we were hoping to encourage our government leaders to return its level of support to previous levels. This is all part of our good work together.
CFGB staff writes: You can also contribute to this [effort] by communicating with your Member of Parliament about this issue and how it is important to you. Write a letter or email, call your MP’s office or talk to your MP in person and pass on this important message. Learn more about the issue, and pray for this work, and for those working to improve their own food security. If you have any questions, or need some support, call us at 1-800-665-0377 or email email@example.com.
EMCC is one of the fifteen members of CFGB and is thankful for the effectiveness of CFGB in the commendable goal of ending global hunger.
By Phil Delsaut,
President, Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada