“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me…to preach good news to the poor…” (Isaiah 61:1)
Chapter 61 of the book of Isaiah contains many hopeful words about transforming lives. The Growing Nations project of the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA) seeks to transform the way Basotho people have been practicing agriculture by encouraging them to farm in harmony with nature.
But changing mindsets is not easy. Tradition and culture are bulwarks against change. The words “We’ve always done it this way” are not easily defeated. When plows were first introduced in the country in the 19th century, it was said no woman would marry a man without one. The plow allowed more land to be cultivated. It also precipitated the tremendous erosion problems faced by the country today.
At the old Maphutseng mission of the LECSA, Growing Nations teaches something new: “Farming God’s Way”. This includes conservation agriculture practices such as no plowing, crop rotation and keeping the soil covered as much as possible. The curriculum is biblically-based and allows Growing Nations not only to transform agriculture but also the lives of its practitioners.
Rainfall patterns in Lesotho are often spotty and include frequent downpours which have eroded huge amounts of soil. Seeking to solve the problems caused by irregular and heavy rainfall in a country where the vast majority of the people still live in rural areas and depend completely or partially on agriculture to sustain themselves, missionary pastor Rev. August Basson introduced conservation agriculture while serving as pastor at Tebellong LECSA. The result? Transformed lives! In 2007 when most of the country suffered from drought, the villages around Tebellong were able to sell six tons of food to the United Nations for food relief elsewhere in the country.
The LECSA subsequently decided to develop the historic mission site of Maphutseng into the much larger Growing Nations project. The old missionary house dates from the 1840’s and is being revamped into a dormitory to house Basotho farmers and pastors, as well as others from outside Lesotho, who come for extensive periods of training. At Maphutseng, Rev. Basson is being assisted by local parish pastor Rev. Ezekiel Moletsane in this endeavor.
Convincing people that crops will grow without plowing is a real challenge to overcome. But the faith of those willing to change has brought impressive results. More and more LECSA pastors are being trained by Growing Nations and introducing the practices into their parishes and villages. Resistance is strong, but impressive yields and “Seeing is believing” eventually defeat “We’ve always done it this way.”
Stories of transformed lives are real! Visit the website www.growingnations.co.za to learn more about Growing Nations and view a video. You will hear from Rev. Basson and Rev. Moletsane about the good news of “Farming God’s Way.” Although much has been accomplished, their work and that of the LECSA and Growing Nations is just beginning.