Can Buying a Tractor and Trees Change the Future for Angolan Kids?

November 21, 2008

By Sue King
UMVIM Director, CA-NV Annual Conference

The answer is, "Yes, it can." Buying a tractor and trees can change the future for Angolan kids - at least, the 2004 California-Nevada UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) team believed so when they planted mango and banana trees at the site of the West Angola Training Farm north of Luanda. And today, the mango trees (below) stand 10 feet high in rows, thirsty for the irrigation waters that will soon flow again at the training farm.
The banana trees? Well, they didn’t survive, because of problems with the archaic irrigation canal that blocked the flow from the nearby Bengo River. The Angolan government undertook a project to reconstruct and improve the canal system in the last year, however, and soon it will be reopened.

Anticipating the flow of life-giving waters in the completed canals, Bishop Gaspar Domingos and conference staff person Dr. Antonio Sozinho, who holds a Doctorate in Agriculture from Agricultural University of Huombo, Angola, are eager to resume work on the West Angola United Methodist Conference's master plan to build an Agricultural Training Farm near the village of Porto Quipiri, just 75 kilometers north of capital city Luanda.
Porto Quipiri was once the site of a refugee camp where 10 children a day were dying. UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) was very involved in improving conditions at the camp, assuring that the people received food and water. When the refugees were allowed to return home, many decided to remain in Porto Quipiri. They built a Methodist Church/school building there (at right) that continues to serve the new community that they created.
The farm can further grow the region, Bishop Domingos and Dr. Sozinho believe, and by training farmers in sustainable agricultural methods can benefit rural and urban Angolans for generations to come. But they need the churches of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to be partners in providing some of the "start-up capital equipment"—namely, a John Deere tractor.
The training farm will, at the outset, provide jobs locally and increase food abundance and availability. Angola, a net exporter of food before its three decades of civil war, has very high food prices. In fact, Luanda has recently replaced Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world. Per capita income is $3,700, but 70% of the people make less than $1 per day! And always, the youngest citizens suffer the most in impoverished communities.
Second, and most important to the long-term development goals of United Methodist leaders in Angola, the farm will be a demonstration farm to teach improved agricultural practices to the surrounding community and beyond. University students and rural farmers from other districts will go there to learn best management practices of sustainable agriculture. The farmers and students will learn how to develop and manage farms, and then will start farms in five other areas of the conference, where the church already owns large tracts of property. Crops in production will be corn, beans, carrots, tomatoes, onions, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, citrus, cassava, sweet potatoes, and potatoes—foods that are the staples of the Angolan diet.
(Above, Dr. Sue King titrates water sample at Agricultural Training Farm irrigation canal.)
Finally, once crop production and markets are established, the food and the profits from the agricultural production will provide financial support for the missions and ministries of the United Methodist Church. The posocas, community centers in the poorest areas of Luanda, will receive food to feed street children. Proceeds from sales to grocery stores could fund pastors' salaries and other conference projects in the poorest areas of the country.
How does all of this help kids in Angola? The farm provides:
·         more food to eat, straight from the training farm and through improved yields in family gardens;
·         more time in school and less in the fields or marketplace, as farms provide on-the-job training and income for parents in planting, picking, transporting, and marketing produce;
·         cleaner air to breathe, cleaner water to drink, and forests for kids where wildlife abounds, as traditional "slash and burn" agriculture practices that lead to deforestation and soil erosion, are replaced by the sustainable agricultural practices taught at the United Methodist Training Farm and five future farms in other regions of Angola.
How can you become a partner in this ministry? Please—join with other churches in the conference to give to the West Angola Partnership (Conference Advance Special #814). The proceeds will go to the purchase of a John Deere tractor, disc plow, and cultivator that will be used to plant vegetable crops in the under-story of the mangos, and other fruit trees at the agricultural farm. Donations received beyond the cost of the equipment will be used to buy trees, quality seed stock, and hand tools.
How can we do this? TOGETHER! We in California-Nevada have already raised $40,000 for the tractor! And we are pursuing matching funds from the General Board of Global Ministries to reach the estimated cost of $100,000 for tractor, shipping, and accessories. NO gift is too small (or too large)! Five dollars or $50 or $500 will all help to buy the tractor, trees, and seed stock necessary to implement this sustainable agricultural training farm.
Church fundraising ideas for 2008 and 2009:
  • If you have your apportionments covered already, take a Christmas Eve offering designated for Angola Training Farm.
  • Take a "Pledge for Change" during Advent or Lent—all the loose change in everyone's pockets each Sunday can go into the offering plate and be designated for Angola Training Farm. (Some people may be inspired to bring piggy banks to church!)
  • Have a John Deere costume party and square dance at your church! Barbecue, corn on the cob, tractor themes, and country music with a free will donation at the door might be "corny," but it will bring in the "green stuff" in some communities!
  • Invite a past Volunteer in Mission to your church to show pictures about Angola, and host a fundraiser dinner with typical Angolan foods. Mmmm!
  • Know any musicians who do African drumming? Invite the artists to teach Sunday School children how to drum—and have them be part of a worship service about God, With Us, at Work Through Missions in Angola. Take a special offering at the service.
  • Your ideas—HERE! (And please—share them with the Angola Partnership, too!) 
Please contact me to share your fundraising ideas, to get Angolan recipes, and for referrals for speakers on Angola. I have been to Angola five times and am always eager to tell the stories of how God is at work, transforming lives and communities there.