Agro Ecology training in the diocese of Swaziland
The Diocese of Swaziland ran a course on agro- ecology from the 25th to the 30th of July , facilitated by Mr Mncedisi Masuku and Ms Thuli Ncongwane. The participants constituted of members of the Anglican Youth Guild, Anglican Women Fellowship (AWF), Self Help Group Project, Mpolonjeni Renew the Life of the Earth Project and Neighborhood Care Points.
20 candidates started the course and 17 completed. The training included permaculture techniques, and it was linked the fifth mark of mission, (to renew the life of the earth)
Several of the candidates were from the self help group project run by the Diocese that targers the most vulnerable homes in Maphalalaeni. Two thirds of those trained were young, half were members of the anglican Chuch and half fom the community.
The training was facilitated by Mr. Mncedisi Masuku and Ms. Thulie Ncongwane. Mncedisi has over five years’ experience on Climate Smart Agriculture and trained on Eco-theology while Thulie also has over five years’ experience on Women and Youth Empowerment and knowledgeable on Monitoring and Evaluation.
Biblical Aspect of Land Management
The training started with a BiBle study on (Psalms 24.1, Genesis 2.15, Jeremiah 2:7 and 2 Chronicles 7.14). In summary, the discussions outlined that everything created belongs to God and He entrusted mankind to care and sustain it but land has been made detestable (sinengiso). The first group listed what they considered unsustainable land practices being done at their households and daily lives. The other group in relation to 2 Chronicles 7.14 shared what they considered good or sustainable land management practices as sign of repentance. The discussions were broad as other cross cutting topics such as climate change, waste management, chemical river pollution, food price increases were covered. The facilitators clarified some scientific and biblical discussions and used the points discussed in leading the Home Food Gardening training. It was interesting to learn that as people of faith, it is important to make declarations and singing when doing anything in your garden. Therefore, singing, praying and declarations became the order of the workshop.
Choosing a Garden site
This topic covered the right site for a garden at one’s household, fencing and making plots. The value of being biological and use of local resources was emphasized in this topic. Some communities have invasive wattle that can be used for fencing, especially those along river banks and in range lands. Other native non-invasive plants such as thorn less aloe (halibhoma) and euphorbia (umtuze) were suggested as local available resources to use in fencing and keeping good aesthetic view of the garden and household.
Integrated Pest Management
The majority of the participants were exposed to use of synthetic chemicals without understanding the environmental and health dangers related. A comprehensive explanation on the types of agricultural pest and diseases and the synthetic pesticides used was discussed in comparison to other pest management methods such as biological pest management and use of organic pesticides.
Soil and Water Management
This topic was discussed lengthy from choosing the garden site, understanding the soil type, making and alignment of plots, plots sizes, and making reference to the Bible. The practical was so exciting because it is where participants enjoyed their diversity. As mentioned, that singing and declarations were made, the facilitators were demonstrating and making singing Anglican Hymns, then participants followed with their different songs, hymns and declarations. It was exiting to hear the different songs and prayers that were made.
One participant who is a member of the Anglican Women Fellowship emphasized on the importance of making declarations and singing while working in the garden. This led to the resolution that for every household, there must be a tree planted for each member of the household with prophetic declarations made for each member in his or her tree. The facilitators were left with no option but to have an additional topic on “how to plant fruit trees”. An interesting testimony from this exercise is that, Nothando Mhlophe a university graduate in agriculture who was un-employed made job declarations or prayers and she was called for an Interview to be a Veterinary Nurse the following day, as we report, Monday 01st August 2022 marked her first day at work. Such news/testimony was encouraging and uplifting to the participants on the Graduation Day.
Organic Soil Fertility Management
The same applied with soil fertility management, the participants were used to using synthetic fertilizers in their farming. A detailed explanation of the environmental and health effects of such fertilizers was shared. Soil fertility management which included understanding the role of soil micro-organisms was covered. Use of kraal manure, composting, liquid organic manure was discussed and practically demonstrated when making plots and transplanting. The process of making liquid organic fertilizer, mixing rations and how to apply it was discussed and practically demonstrated.
The participants were given an opportunity to do a practical demonstration of what and how they were planting their gardens. Synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides were provided for demonstration without the facilitator’s interventions. This was an interesting exercise which assisted the facilitators to see other aspects that were not covered or well explained in the theoretical discussions. Then the next step was transplanting in the organically prepared plots. Again, the facilitators were demonstrating and explaining the integrated pest management and soil fertility management aspect even when one is transplanting. Importance of crop rotation, crop diversification, mulching and other good soil and water conservation practices such as rainwater harvesting and grey water filtering were discussed and demonstrated lengthy in this topic.
Spiritual Reflection on Home Gardening
The practical demonstration of how the participants were planting their home food gardens, the biblical reflections and all discussions was an eye opener for every participant. Jeremiah 2:7 states that God brough the people of Israel to a fertile land to eat its fruits but they defiled the land and made it an abomination. The Siswati Bible translation has translated the last word “abomination” into “Sinengiso”. This was the bullet word throughout the training such that the plot where the participants did their demonstration on how they were transplanting was named “sinengiso” (an abomination). The practices on how they were managing their households ranging from waste management to their Home Food Gardens was also named the same (tinengiso/abominations). The word, “sinengiso” from a Siswati native speaker carries more weight and understanding hence all participants were called into repentance. Every participant wrote a letter of commitment on how he/she will change her household now and in the future. The call was to change Tinengiso/abomination into Green Households. The commitment letters were sealed and blessed by Rev Canon Wandile Dlamini and Rev Bhekisisa Dlamini during the graduation Eucharist service. The participants took their letters with them for reflection and action.
The Very Rev Advent Dlamini, Dean of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Swaziland advised that the participants visit his wife Mrs. Nelsiwe Dlamini who is practicing Home Food Garden at the Rectory in a small plot (12mx15m) but is able to meet domestic use and sell surplus at the rectory. The advised was welcomed by the facilitators and dedicated one hour of the training for the visit. Mrs. Dlamini shared how she is managing her garden and highlighted most of the topics that ware covered and the commercial aspect of her project. She also shared how she is also doing farming back home in the rural village where their home is located. She shared the value of giving to the poor and your extended family what you have produced as a woman. Mrs. Dlamini encouraged using of the mind and hands to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and taking your household out of poverty. These are values, norms and expectation from a believer and in the Swazi culture; hence this was a great and impactful discussion. The Agro-ecology participants were energized to impact change in their lives, households, communities, churches and beyond.
Graduation Eucharist Service
The Rev. Canon Wandile Dlamini and Rev Bhekisisa Dlamini led a Eucharist Service using prayers from the Season of Creation. The participation of even non-Anglicans in the service was of great value and impact. The readings for the service were: Psalms 24; Genesis 2: 8-17; Mathew 13: 1-23
In his sermon, Rev Wandile stated that each of graduates had received the information and skills on Home Food Garden as a seed, it is upon them to choose whether to have a heart like a rock or road or with thorns, however he encouraged them to have a receptive heart like good soil as demonstrated in the permaculture plots. He also said the Diocese has trained them and is spreading them to different households, churches and communities as the seed, it is also their responsibility to choose to be a seed falling on fertile soil (being productive) or not. The Eucharist service ended with the awarding of certificates facilitated by the Diocesan Secretary and Rev. Wandile
With Appreciation to the United Thank Offering