Andre Viljoen spoke to Grant Dryden of Farming God’s Way about a new home food production programme called ‘Gardens of Faithfulness’ which is bringing fresh hope across the nation because it is feasible for poor people to undertake and it offers opportunities for churches, NGOs and individuals to make a difference
On May 4 last year, as the coronavirus lockdown was tightening the grip of poverty across South Africa, Grant Dryden had a defining-moment encounter with the Lord in a beautiful vegetable garden in Port Elizabeth.
At the time all the produce of that Farming God’s Way model garden was being given to people in hungry communities “but in desperation we saw we were not even scratching the surface of the need”, said Grant who has been rolling out FGW around the world for the past 17 years.
That time of prayer in the garden last May was one of several key God moments on a journey that began more than 30 years ago when the Holy Spirit instructed him not to pursue his dream of becoming a marine biologist but to wait on Him in order to make “the most important decision” in his life.
Heeding that instruction he fasted and prayed for a month and sensed God wanted him to study agriculture “so you can bring people out of poverty”. He completed a four-year honours degree course, which he said taught him a lot about agriculture but gave him no idea how to help the poor.
More than a decade later, while leading a church mission to deliver 50 tons of desperately-need food to starving villagers in Malawi, he had another destiny-shaping experience. While many people were celebrating the success of the mission which was backed by many caring donors, he became depressed as he realised that within months the villagers would be starving again.
He saw that the farming conditions in that area of Malawi were excellent and the people were hard-working but yet were failing at agriculture. He said the Lord opened his eyes afresh to the truth that people perish because of a lack of knowledge [Hosea 4:6]. This revelation led to the church’s adoption of Farming God’s Way in their missionary activity in Africa.
Over the years Grant systematised Farming God’s Way and developed training resources for the farming concept that was first implemented by Zimbabwean farmer Brian Oldreive — a journey which he says is continuing as God continues to reveal more about His ways.
Over that time he has seen God’s approach to agriculture resulting in much greater yields and better-quality produce with a wide variety of crops in different climate and environmental conditions. He has also seen transformation of communities that adopt the approach.
Farming God’s Way is much more than a farming technique. It is a discipleship and community upliftment system that integrates biblical, management and technical keys in crop production.
And its successes cannot be attributed to man’s ingenuity but wholly to the Lord of Creation who, in Genesis 2, reveals Himself as the first farmer and master farmer who planted a garden in the East of Eden and has much to say about farming in His Word, said Grant.
“Our job is to bring to light God’s creative power and all His amazing wisdom,” he said.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. — Romans 1:20
Some years ago, influenced by the needs of urban communities, Farming God’s Way shifted their approach in South Africa to vegetable production, focusing on the nutritional needs of children.
And during his time of prayer in the model garden last May, in the midst of the household food shortage exacerbated by lockdown, Grant found himself face-to-face with the truth that for all their successes they needed a new strategy to address the current crisis.
“So, I said to the Lord: ‘Won’t you give us a hundred gardens like this? Then I stopped myself, and said: ‘No Lord, 100 gardens is not going to do it. Give us a thousand gardens.’
“And then I just stopped myself and I started to think about the numbers — the desperation of the people who cannot feed theselves and there is no work. And I said: ‘Lord, won’t you give us a million gardens?’
“And I put a peg in the ground there. It was the worst time in the world to launch a brand-new product but the Lord said to me straight: ‘Grant what are you going to do differently?’
” So I began, like Nehemiah, to go on this journey, almost prophetically, in the Spirit, of examining the walls of my work in South Africa over the past 17 years; examining why there were holes in the walls, why we are not getting the adoption [of Farming God’s Way by the many people they have trained] we should be getting.”
In the process Grant said he was shown five main problem areas: 1. A lost agronomic culture with people no longer desiring to work the land; 2. Little space to work the land due to urbanisation; 3. A dependence and entitlement mentality; 4. The scale of their model-garden-based training was too much for most trainees who were excited at first but then lost enthusiasm as they began to feel it was too big for them to handle; 5. Too many insurmountable problems (materials, inputs, logistics, water issues, etc.) for poor people to engage with the process.
“And as I walked through those big five problems with the Lord the vision of the Gardens of Faithfulness was birthed.
The vision is to start small, with 1m x 2m vegetable patches and to keep things simple yet incorporating all the principles of Farming God’s Way, such as not ploughing; 100% ground cover; species biodiversity with fruit, leaf and root crops; canopy-based population density and top feeding.
Most of the materials needed to start a garden have been provided by God in the surroundings. A start-up kit for a six months gardening cycle comprises a supermarket packet of manure, a margarine tub of woodash (e.g. from a braai fire), five packets of “blanket” cover (e.g. roadside grass cuttings) and a pack of seeds and seedlings [25 bean seeds, 10 spinach plants, 10 beetroot plants and 10 spring onion plants] which is being made available at the generous price of R10.
He said they have set up distribution nodes for seed and seedling in different centres. They were working on expanding the nodes and on a plan to be able to send seed and seedlings anywhere in the country.
To date they have seen up to R550 worth of vegetable product coming out of one Garden of Faithfulness making it an affordable investment in a family’s nutrition with potential to develop into a sustainable and growing source of nutrition for families and even into profitable businesses.
And the visionary, new campaign is taking off with thousands of gardens planted nationwide and growing interest.
“We have seen more adoption [of the project] in the last three months than we have seen in the last 17 years. That’s what happens when we just make ourselves available and ask the Lord to ‘show me the way I should go’.
“We need as South Africans to change our mindset. Our problems are not insurmountable. We can all do our bit in bringing the hope that we have in Christ to the fore and once we humble ourselves and align ourselves to God’s ways He does the rest,” said Grant.
He said anybody can make a difference by undergoing training to plant Gardens of Faithfulness and to equip others to do likewise.
“A million gardens is a big goal, said Grant, but he said it is doable if we all work through our areas of influence to make it happen.
Christian housewives, for instance, could make a big difference just by planting gardens with their domestic workers and they could go wider if they wished.
“One lady last week took 80 [Gardens of Faithfulness] sets and this week ordered 112,” he said.
More information and free resources on Gardens of Faithfulness is available on the Farming God’s Way website (www.farming-gods-way.org) and Youtube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkRvml2KKMpstMwrfgKCVyw). Anybody wanting to participate in the programme is invited to register online to receive more resources and support.
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