I was recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was privileged to meet John Nday. John is a trained agronomist that works with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Kamina. While I envy his day job, working with small farmers year-round to improve production of staple crops, dry-season vegetables, and improving access to clean water and latrines, it is his weekend activities that I want to share. John not only tells people how to improve their health and livelihoods through agriculture during the work week, he also lives out his values of caring for the poor on his own farm on the weekends.
I know little about John but I could sense his passion and his commitment to his community in the few days we traveled together. He was sponsored to study at the Asian Rural Institute (http://www.ari-edu.org/en/home-eng/) by UMCOR in 2009 and on his return he has been working on what he calls his “Weekend Summer Project”.
John said, “I like my work of empowering the rural community to help them to improve their lives. We do not have a choice as sometimes we receive for free from others and we also give for free. This is why I had initiated a small project on my own small land that I call Weekend Summer Project For The Benefit Of Communities Going Through Suffering (orphans and vulnerable students) as I also went through the same. This is why I do my work with love.” He is undertaking integrated activities that include vegetable and Maize/Corn production, experimenting with small poultry and fish production.
John volunteers his time and his land to help his community learn about agriculture and to help improve their livelihoods and ability to meet their primary needs: food, school, university tuition, etc. He says, “Some of the interventions were done to help open the mind of the community to self-reliance and development. The goal of this small weekend summer project that I am doing during my free time especially during the weekend is for the vulnerable people (orphans, very poor students who have difficulties to continue with their studies) to be empowered and sustain their lives as well as to have confidence. So they work in this project, produce and get money for their different needs (school and university fees, food, accommodation fees for some, etc…). My contribution to this project is the land and the knowledge and experience from Africa University/ Zimbabwe and ARI training (Asian Rural Institute).”
From the very heart of a country that seldom produces much good news (at least that is reported to the wider world), comes a story of hope, encouragement, and grace. Investing in people, not just programs, brings lasting, transformative change. John and his weekend warrior farmers are not only feeding themselves and their communities, but they help feed my soul as well. Invisible farmers no longer.