Mid-September is early spring in Lesotho and it isn’t easy to find patches of green in the landscape, other than the trees putting out new leaves. Winters are generally quite dry here and the past four months or more have been dry except for a few light rain showers.
In the Maphutseng River valley is the historic LECSA mission station of Maphutseng. Besides being an active LECSA parish, the station hosts the LECSA’s Growing Nations training centre where Conservation Agriculture (CA) techniques are taught and practiced. Key components of CA, or Farming God’s Way as Growing Nations likes to say, include minimal disturbance of the soil (no plowing), keep the soil covered and crop rotation. Rev. August Basson of the Africa Inland Mission has long been an ardent advocate of CA and sharing the Gospel through teaching Farming God’s Way. As the Director of Growing Nations, he has been working closely with the LECSA for a number of years to encourage more people to use CA.
Some of Growing Nation’s training is done in residential programs at Maphutseng. But Growing Nations also takes its message of transformational farming out into the surrounding area. A few years ago Ntate Molefi Mpana, from the small village of Ha Lelinyane located high above the Maphutseng valley, attended one of these outreach efforts for several days to learn about CA techniques. He and a few others from his village are now star practitioners of CA. Rev. Basson says they have even surpassed what they are doing at Growing Nations and taken CA to a new level. He now regularly brings students and visitors to Ha Lelinyane to see for themselves the impressive fruits of Farming God’s Way. Although the 4×4 journey to the village takes an hour from Maphutseng over a rough and rocky track, no one who comes is ever disappointed by what they see.
Here the brown fields and scenery are broken with vivid patches of green where CA has made amazing differences. The gardens have lush growth and a variety of intermingled crops, including, wheat, peas, radish and spinach. The contrast with the surrounding area is startling. Below all the green is a thick layer of dried grass and crop residue. Beneath this covering is rich, fertile and moist soil, complete with earthworms. In the adjacent maize field, the stubble from the harvest is also covered with grass. Pull up a stalk root and the soil moisture and richness is once again evident. Whereas other farmers have to wait for the rains to begin before planting, here the soil is fertile enough for planting now. Small piles of dried manure have already been placed in the field where the seeds will be planted.
The covering in the gardens and fields is so thick that weeds are no longer a problem. In fact, Ntate Molefi and his wife ‘M’e Matšepiso no longer do any weeding! As for planting, instead of needing a plow and oxen, they just use a hand spade to dig small holes for planting seeds. Their work is not nearly as hard as in the past and yet their harvests far surpass anything from the years before they started Farming God’s Way. Listening to them talk about the great difference CA has made for them, it is easy to see that their lives have been transformed. And for that they thank Rev. Basson and praise God!
The LECSA is currently looking at ways of expanding the outreach efforts of Growing Nations by establishing demonstration plots in various parts of the country. With God’s help, the LECSA will lead many others to practice Farming God’s Way. And for that, we can all praise God!