One Sunday in November, 7 000 people of all ages, races and backgrounds gathered in Harare. 3 000 people met at White City stadium in Bulawayo. Similar meetings took place in Gweru, Masvingo, Hwange and scores of villages around the country. Further afield, from Canada, to Australia, UK, and Mauritius, there were Zimbabweans in the diaspora holding similar gatherings in churches and community centres around the world.
Zimbabweans are historically divided by race, tribe, language, and now by continents, but on this day, some of them put aside these differences. They met in response to Trumpet Call, a campaign run by the LoveZim coalition.
More than a single event
Trumpet Call is a campaign that aims to summon the people of Zimbabwe to action. It’s a call that will alert them to a way of farming that could drastically reduce poverty and famine. It’s a call to tell them about Foundations for Farming.
A Christian farmer in Zimbabwe, Brian Oldrieve, has developed a method of land management that can help all Zimbabweans – whether they are rich or poor; whether they own large farms or share small co-operatives. Foundations for Farming is a ‘zero tillage’ method that encourages early planting. It uses the available resources (the nutrients in the soil, the rain and the sunlight) to their maximum potential. The technique consistently proves itself: more than 50 000 households have adopted this method, and cereal yields have increased 50-200% as a result.
Many Zimbabweans are currently starving due to the political and economic chaos in the country. Organisations and charities simply can’t meet the need for food aid. Many people are forced to cultivate subsistence farms in order to feed themselves. Traditionally, they plant late in the season and use a ‘slash and burn’ method of farming, which strips the soil of its nutrients. Changing from their old way of farming to a new, unfamiliar one is a daunting prospect. They need encouragement and guidance. That’s where Trumpet Call aims to help.
Leaders of churches across Zimbabwe, from Catholic priests to Apostolics and Evangelicals, have put differing doctrines aside to focus instead on the biblical principles of caring for the poor and being stewards of the land. They are pooling resources so that they can promote, teach and support Foundations for Farming.
The coalition of churches and organisations is called LoveZim. Besides the local players, there are major international charities like Tearfund International and Samaritan’s Purse who have joined the team. Others, such as African Enterprise, are more regionally-based. With God’s help, they hope to rebuild Zimbabwe, literally from the ground up.
Land issues in Zimbabwe
It is fitting that LoveZim sees land as the means of transforming the country. Land – or rather, how people have used the land’s resources – has been a trigger for change in Zimbabwe since the beginning of its documented history.
The Kingdoms of Mapungubwe and Mutapa gained power due to the mineral-rich land. It enabled them to trade gold and copper with the rest of the world, which made them into wealthy, strong states.
In the 1800s, colonialist Cecil Rhodes gained first control of the land when he obtained a mining concession from King Lobengula. Many black Zimbabweans were moved off their land to less fertile areas during the colonial era, a policy that was sustained during Ian Smith’s rule.
The Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 was the contract that certified the country’s independence. Key points of the agreement centred on how the land was to be used, and by whom, in the new Zimbabwe. These issues remained unresolved and the year 2000 saw the start of white farmers being forcibly removed from their homes under the rule of Robert Mugabe.
Land issues have been at the crux of so many turning points in Zimbabwe’s past. Perhaps Foundations for Farming will lay the groundwork for a positive future.