Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Which comes first, markets or produce?" pt 1

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

All the secular analysts and aid workers, insist that when they try and help a community to produce more commodity, they must first develop a market and set up the appropriate infrastructure i.e.willing buyers, packaging and transport to market.

This actually hasn’t happened unless an entrepreneurial businessman or commodity broker sets up a commercial ‘Outgrower’ Scheme. These enterprising investors only come in if they have assessed the feasibility of the scheme, which would include their own market research.

However, because staple foodstuffs have a low value to weight ratio, these investors normally neglect the more distant and isolated communities, because the cost of investment and transport would be much greater.Also an investor would not consider coming into any area to set up business unless he could be assured of a reasonably consistent volume of supply of that commodity each year.

Africa’s average yield for maize has been around the one-tonne per hectare therefore mark for the last fifty years, with wide vacillations in annual yield. This means that the bottom half of producers have a much lower and more unreliable performance level, and therefore a much higher risk and much less feasibility for investment.

It is God’s way that we first begin by increasing yields, on a much more consistent basis, at the most efficient cost of production, which is what Foundations for Farming has been shown to achieve. This means that we are being faithful with the first things that God has given us, and then He adds to us. Investing in marketing infrastructure before this foundational faithfulness is like trying to build on air from the windowsills.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Assessing our ability to market our surplus produce

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

A very important factor to assess is to find out how and where you are going to sell your produce profitably. This will involve researching what price you can realistically expect and will include an assessment of distance and your ability to get your produce to market, as well as the availability of inputs and the distance they would have to be carried. Many farmers fail because they did not do this market research properly.

If your farm in a very distant and isolated community, where there are no cash markets, you may find that you can make a profit by using a barter trading system. However this also needs careful and honest research, which faces the facts as they are, and this must include the integrity of your trading partners.

Look at the situation of a small-scale producer in a very poor and isolated community, which is too far from feasible markets. It would first mean trying to feed your family, but also with a hope of producing a sensibly sized surplus, that you can trust God for, by being faithful with what you have. Firstly this surplus would help to assure that you could at least feed your family in nearly all seasons that the Lord may allow.

Secondly, if you did produce a surplus, you would be able to be a model for those around you, and to supply some food to those who have none. This unselfish generosity of spirit so pleases God (the True Fast of Isaiah 58), and somehow, in a way, which we can’t predict exactly, the Lord would measure back what you have measured out (Luke 6: 38).

You would also be able to receive all the promises that God gives in that wonderful passage in Isaiah 58, and which also includes the promise that you will be recognised as the leaders in the rebuilding of your community. It is incredibly powerful when poor people start to give from what they are given by the Lord. This ‘giving’ not only includes helping others to have some food, but by being a discipleship model and sharing the knowledge we have with them, will help to break the yoke of poverty and hunger of all the people around you.

This Christ-like humility and unselfishness is the beautiful motive of the heart that brings miracles. It is from this beginning point, amongst the poorest of the poor around us, that God’s Way of removing the yoke of oppression will spread upwards and outwards throughout Africa and the Developing world!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evaluating the resources we have pt 2

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Here is a suggested list in the possible order we could put them:

• We must start with ourselves. What gifts and talents do we have and what is the passion of our hearts? Then we should evaluate our strengths. What are we good at, and what do we like doing most? When our gifts and passion coincide, it is very powerful. We must be honest with ourselves in this.
• Next, we list and then assess our motives, goals and objectives before the Lord. Do they bless and honour the Lord and other people? For Brian, this whole adventure of Foundations for Farming started when the Lord showed him that he was dishonouring Him because He knew that by growing tobacco, he was supplying a poisonous substance for many people.
• Next assess your work force. If you are single, it might be just yourself. If you are married this will involve your family, even if it is only your wife and yourself. What output and productivity levels does your team, individually and together, have? If you employ hired workers, are you capable of paying them, as well as training and equipping them in a proper way?
• Next assess the land that you have in terms of size, soils, slopes, distance from where you live, arable area available, water sources and their proximity.
• Next assess the climate at your locality in terms of rainfall totals and distribution patterns, temperatures, humidity levels, winds, evaporation rates etc.
• Next assess what crops and commodities would be suitable to produce in those conditions, firstly in terms of yield, quality and their reliability in the expected weather patterns.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Evaluating the resources we have

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

All our planning must revolve around the resources that we actually have. It is very unwise and can be presumptuous to embark on the scale of a project that is too large to carry out and complete at a standard that will glorify the Lord. We must not overextendthe resources we have.

The Lord has shown us that if we are faithful with what we have, He will add to us. So it is important to sit down and bring all we have and offer it in service to the Lord.
The Lord has told us in Romans 13: 8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another,”

This is a contentious point, but debt can be a real snare, and it doesn’t fall into line with being faithful with what we actually have. With this in mind, it would be safe to say that it is not wise to plan and embark on a larger scale because we have been promised gifts of funding or inputs or equipment, which are to be delivered at a later date. These may not materialise, causing us to fail in our efforts and dishonour God.

Begin by giving thanks for what our all-wise Lord has given us, and pray for wisdom for the exercise, and then begin making your list of what you do have so that you can assess them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Foundations For Family Update....

Family is a high priority in our raising up leaders and we need to keep the subject high on our agendas. As families we experience joy and pain. One of our Family Champions couples Chenjerai and Irene Sixpence lost their 4 year old daughter. She drank some pesticide by mistake while she was playing with her 9 year old sister in the garden. It was really sad. One of the Pastors was available to conduct the funeral and the family had support from the Faithful Stewards Team that visited the homestead.

The Foundations for Family Champs are excited about the upcoming training in July. Some dates and venues have been established for those in Mashonaland Central Province. 40 people have been invited from each site. The Champions suggested we invite their church leaders and the community's leaders. There is a ladies retreat happening in Kaitano in Mashonaland Central Province at the end of June.

We look forward to hearing more on the Foundations for Family front.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Early to bed and early to rise

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This is not just part of a folklore proverb, but is great wisdom for any farmer. Firstly it is a symbolic gesture to help us to make the most use of all the time, the sunlight hours and all the opportunities that the Lord gives us, but also by getting up early in the morning, the rising sun gives us a real appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation.

Early morning is the time for talking to the Lord and for making final decisions for the days work and for allocating work and giving instructions to your team. This is the time to be the sharpest we can, and this means that we should get to bed early.

Getting to bed early is the key factor in rising early, and is a mini-model that helps us to teach ourselves how to plan all our operations properly. This is a critical discipline that determines the standard of farmer you will be. I have studied the ways of some of the best farmers I have met, and early rising is common to all of them.

It is an exercise in planning, because in order to consistently rise early, your whole day must revolve around the priority of going to bed early. It is also a mini exercise in macro planning and leadership because you have to get your whole family and household to understand and take on board this very high priority. It is important to share with them the Lord’s viewpoint and priority of this discipline,and how the whole family and team will benefit from going to bed early.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late. . .”(Psalm 127: 2)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meditating on God's word and His ways

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1: 8)

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28: 18-20)

‘The Message’ puts verses 19a and 20a: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life,”

Training others is a very important practice for every Christian farmer, and we believe this practice is not optional; every farmer should also be a trainer. The Lord has given us a very important foundational entrance point of how to express the Gospel as life in Christ Jesus and we want to be the best and most unselfish farmers we can possibly be, for His glory. We also want to obey and apply the lovely scripture above and train everyone we meet in this Jesus’ way of life; for us this is in the speciality that God has given us, which is Farming.

Everything in Foundations for Farming is based on God’s Word and as such has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Every plan, decision, instruction, action, operation should conform to His Word. I don’t want to be legalistic about this and God is very gracious with us as we learn, but this is where we must all set our hearts and minds.

Sharing knowledge from God, practically applied, stops others from perishing (stops the rot). Hosea 4: 6 says, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.’ The Lord has given us some of His knowledge and vision of how to remove the yoke of poverty for ourselves and we are to unselfishly share it with others for to help stop their perishing.

The Salvation Gospel has gone out vigorously into Africa for hundreds of years, yet the great majority of those converted are the poorest people on earth, getting poorer. Have we really obeyed the last words and instruction that Jesus gave us before He rose back to the Father? Head knowledge alone is of no use; we have to actually do it and apply that knowledge to life!

The Lord wants us to make disciples. This means we have to be living and obedient models to those we want to teach. This itself is enough incentive for us to farm with humble and unselfish excellence, but there is another wonderful blessing that we receive by teaching and training others: (Training is an even greater privilege than teaching, because training involves the doing too!)

By training others we also train ourselves into a greater understanding of God’s principles and by applying them as models ourselves, we become better and better farmers. It is Luke 6: 38 again, that as we measure it to others, so it shall be measured back to us, pressed down and running over, and so the application is continually multiplied and the Kingdom of God advances.

This is where Joshua 1: 8 is so precious. If we, as farmers, want to come out of poverty ourselves and teach others the same, it means we have to cease from failing and getting poorer. In Joshua 1: 8 we have the Lord’s wonderful promise of how to succeed and prosper.

If we want to apply God’s Word to life, we must know this Word in our hearts, and in the greatest fullness we can manage to receive. God says that we should meditate on it day and night. This means that we should study, meditate and ruminate on it in the early morning or in the evening, and when we wake up in the middle of the night so that we receive it into our minds, hearts and spirit. We need to really believe what we read in a way that will enable us to do it. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We should pray for wisdom to understand it and faith to do it!

Then, very excitingly, this process is fulfilled by meditating on God’s Word during the day while we are working, and by applying it to our work. This is the ‘doing’ part of God’s Word that results in prosperity and success, and as such composes one of our chief Mandates and Foundations for Farming, which is to break the yoke of the oppression of poverty, hunger, and nakedness (the True Fast).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The importance of prayer

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundations other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This is the most important Farming Practice that we will ever do. We are embarking on a task to use the Soil, the Water, the Sunshine, the Time and the Growth with the Wisdom, Faith and Strength that our Creator God has given us.

The Lord knows all things and has all power to do every good work, so it is important to ask Him for the knowledge of these things and especially how to use them in a way that brings Him all the glory.

We should pray for the Lord to help us with these things regularly, and preferably as part of our quiet time each morning before we start, and even more importantly, before we start any new part of the season e.g. land preparation or planting etc. It is good to ask the Lord to help us to glorify Him in every aspect of the operation, and for Him to give us the gifting, wisdom, faith and joy for the task.

It is a very important part of faithfulness, to remember to give thanks and praise to the Lord! 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 is a very helpful scripture to memorise.... Good News Bible:

“Be joyful always, pray at all times and be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for your life in union with Christ Jesus.”