agriculture seminars: integration of theology and soil

Harrison Family AUG2015

We’ve been in Geita now for several weeks now, and have transitioned well back into life and work in Tanzania — though our first ten days or so were a bit rough:

  • We arrived at our house to learn city water hadn’t been available to our entire water line for over two months.  Fortunately, though, our teammates had filled the water tanks at our house the day before we arrived.  Our house has still not received water from the city and, without rainwater to harvest, we have to order a truck every ten days or so to deliver 750 gallons.  We’re waiting on a truck right now, in fact.
  • We were also welcomed back to Geita by electricity problems and rationing.  Our first week back, we averaged about six hours of electricity a day (while we were sleeping).  It’s gotten a little better (about 12 hours on, 12 off), though of the last 30 hours we’ve had just three of electricity.
  • And — in addition to the above ticker tape parade welcomes — every member of our family experienced a virus during our first ten days in country.  I’m the only one who was fortunate enough to have diarrhea WITHOUT the accompanying vomiting.

But enough complaining.


I spend most of every September teaching agriculture seminars to rural farmers.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a more integrated approach to teaching conservation agriculture and Biblical truths.  This month’s short one-day seminars focus on the following:

  1. Creation to Redemption: God created the world (and the garden) in such a way as to be sustainable, and then entrusted it to man.  Man’s disobedience broke not only his relationship with God, but also his relationship with the soil (and with woman).  All creation waits for the redemption which Christ brings.  And rightfully so because all creation was created through Christ and for him — and all creation is sustained only by his power.  As the body of Christ, we too are ministers of this reconciliation.
  2. The Science of Soils: We study water, air, minerals, elements, organic matter and living organisms in order to learn how these work together to bring our harvests.  I want to make sure our farmers aren’t simply memorizing and emulating an agricultural system, but rather understand the science that makes our farming practices beneficial to us.  In this way future changes in climate, soil, etc will not require “experts” to bring another system — instead, local farming groups will creatively solve their problems together.
  3. Conservation Agriculture:  Primarily here, we’re focusing on three core principles: a) Mimimum (or no) tillage of the soil, b) keeping the soil covered at all times either with live crops or with the residue of previously harvested crops, and c) using a crop rotation which includes green manure / cover crops which serve many purposes, one of which is to fix nitrogen in the soil eliminating the need for other fertilizers.

I won’t bore you with further details of this agriculture stuff (at least not today), but if you want to know more about it, please do ask; I very much enjoy talking about it, and have probably begun to exhaust the ears of those closest to me.  [Christie might scream if I mention one more new leguminous cover crop seed.]

Here are a couple of photos of this week’s Wednesday and Thursday seminars.  They were at Ng’wakiwasha and Ng’wagimagi, respectively.  Ng’wakiwasha farmers have been exposed to conservation agriculture for 3+ years now, and we’re seeing a great deal of implementation and success there.  Yesterday was Ng’wagimagi village’s first seminar, and future follow-up visits will show if innovators are present and determine whether or not I continue to invest time and energy in that village.

Ng'wakiwasha kwa YohanaNg'wagimagi kwa Elias

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2 Comments

Filed under agriculture, living in africa

2 responses to “agriculture seminars: integration of theology and soil

  1. Ted

    Why is tillage bad?

    • Lots of reasons, but a few of my favorites: increased water penetration and greater water retention, reduced soil erosion, and more organic matter in the ground meaning a higher quality and more resilient soil. In short the crop residue covering the ground shades the soil, providing food and better conditions for organisms living in the soil, while also preventing heavy rains from washing the soil away.

      I suppose, though, these reasons have more to do (directly, at least) with keeping the soil covered with crop residues, though that’s easiest done without tilling each new season.

      So I guess the main reason for non-tillage itself is just that it’s an unnecessary disturbance of the soil and living organisms in it. The disturbance can not only be harmful to those organisms, but is also expensive in terms of labor.

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