In the run up to Christmas and into the New Year, local congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) will be supporting the Church’s annual World Development Appeal (WDA). For over 40 years, Presbyterians have raised millions of pounds through the Appeal for life changing projects in some of the poorest communities and disadvantaged places on the planet.
The Appeal supports the work of PCI’s relief and development partners, Tearfund and Christian Aid, in a number of countries across the globe. Primarily for Presbyterians, the 2019 World Development Appeal, ‘Farming God’s Way,’ seeks to address poverty and food insecurity due to natural disasters and problem investment in Mozambique through Tearfund’s partner, CEDES (Comité Ecuménico Para O Desenvolvimento Social / Ecumenical Committee for Social Development).
Describing the Appeal as ‘remarkable’, the convener of the World Development Committee, Rev Fiona Forbes said, “There is a wonderful rhythm to Church life. At this particular time of year, our Church comes together across the island of Ireland to learn more about, to support and bless the vital work of sustainable development in fragile states, in the case of this year’s lead project, conservation agriculture.
“Just as we have been blessed in so many different ways, through the Appeal we invite our congregations to stand in solidarity with some of the poorest communities around the world. We may be in Belfast or Derry, Dublin, Cork or elsewhere, but we stand with them on their frontlines. Together we join in their journeys, discovering the stories of how God is working in His world to bring hope and transformation, re-shaping how they are in relationship with one another, and with the world around them.”
The minister of Harmony Hill, near Lisburn, continued, “The work of sustainable development is not simple. It is hard work and long-term as it seeks to build within communities a shared vision for a future that is different to that which has gone before. It is a remarkable work of faith and endurance, of courage and hope and we are grateful to be able to be a part of it,” she said.
This year’s lead project focuses on the Inhassoro district of Mozambique, which lies within the cyclone region of the country, but is also prone to drought. “Eeking out an existence through subsistence farming in this fragile and dangerous place is hard work, but through our partner, CEDES, communities are discovering within themselves the resources and the capacity to do more than that, which the World Development Appeal can further support,” explained Derek Hall, Tearfund’s church relationships manager.
“In farming co-operatives they are learning how to adapt their farming methods so they can be more resilient in the face of the challenges that come their way. Conservation agriculture techniques, or ‘Farming God’s Way’, are not only producing greater quantity and better quality crops during and outside of the traditional growing season, but are also bearing fruit in terms of faith and relationships,” he said.
An important part of the project is training what are known as ‘umoja’ facilitators. ‘Umoja’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘togetherness’ and the ‘umoja’ process sees a trained facilitator lead community groups in Bible studies that also bring people together. “Through these studies, the community is helped in identifying and using the resources they have to lead and control their own development. This removes the sense of disempowerment that can accompany being dependent on an external donor. In this process there is also potential within local churches to take a lead on development issues in a more holistic approach to ministry,” Derek Hall explained.
He also said that working with families; households have been trained in sustainable farming techniques that generate a small surplus income. This can then be reinvested through self-help groups that in turn, generate small businesses in the neighbourhood.
You can watch the specially produced video by PCI for the Appeal, ‘Farming God’s Way’ below.
Commending the 2019 World Development Appeal to congregations, Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr William Henry said, “The challenges and difficulties that can face the work of sustainable development cannot be underestimated. Through this appeal, we have a remarkable opportunity, as global disciples, to understand the frontlines some of the poorest communities around the world find themselves on.
“As we pray and support practically this year’s Appeal, we can play a part in helping communities in Mozambique and in other fragile and dangerous places to unlock the potential within them to sow and nurture the seeds of a more sustainable future. We are called to share God’s heart for His world, demonstrating His love through practical and prayerful support, while declaring the good news that our God is a redeeming and a restoring God. As the psalmist tells us in Psalm 126:6, ‘Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves,’” Dr Henry said.
While the project in Mozambique is the lead project for the 2019 World Development Appeal, Rev Fiona Forbes also explained that the Appeal would also support a Christian Aid project in Bangladesh. “‘Catherina’s Cassava’, also focuses on poverty alleviation through sustainable farming, which demonstrates that conservation agriculture techniques are bearing fruit in other fragile and dangerous places. This includes Chad, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast where further Tearfund projects will also benefit from this year’s Appeal.”
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