I have wanted to post this photo on our blog. This map shows the farm that CEFA (Center of Education and Formation of Agriculture) operates in Gamboula, Central African Republic. It is this site that Denise and I will be working and ministering to the Fulani. Through this farm we can begin to study and better understand the agricultural management opportunities the people in CAR have available to them.
Looking at this map shows an area of roughly 1,000 acres. You see small creeks that run through the property, which are used in 2 locations for tilapia fish farming. Roy Danforth, the missionary present on the farm today, is pointing to one of these locations on the map. I remember the director being somewhat disappointed by the lack of fish harvested. Perhaps this is an area that can be improved on the farm.
You notice green grids along a large portion of the farm. These are 2.5 hectare (5 acre) grids that have been designed for agroforestry. Agroforestry is a key management component of successful agriculture in CAR. In the US field crops want to capture all the available sunlight possible in order to maximize production. In CAR, however, sunlight is available evenly throughout the growing season as it is near the equator. So sunlight is in abundance and can actually overheat the soil. Trees spaced appropriately can keep annual crops growing well without extreme temperatures in the soil. Also, these trees have the potential to bring nutrients to crops. Roots of trees that go deep into the soil can find such nutrients like phosphorus which are critical for plant and root health. Specific species of trees can actually help fix nitrogen in the soil. Trees can also provide fruit for many years to landowners. The importance of a successful agroforestry program cannot be understated to farmers in CAR, and will be a major source of development taught on the farm to neighboring villages.
There are further items on the farm that I hope to develop further. Kudzu, cowpea, and a peanut variety which does not produce seed have all shown potential on the farm. Using these in a crop management system may help improve crop yields with the nutrients they provide to the soil. Managed appropriately, these species can be of great benefit.
Another part of the CEFA farm are the nutrition gardens. These are small raised beds, but exist to grow produce vegetables year round. We hope to produce an abundance of vegetables that will aid in providing a full balanced diet to families.
A final area of the CEFA farm that we hope to develop related to crops is some of their major crops that are grown in the area. A large portion of the Fulani frequently visit the local hospital in a malnourished state. It is a major goal of the CEFA farm to improve food calorie crops that are available to the people in CAR. Cassava is the major crop grown in the area, though corn and peanuts are also commonly grown. If the farm can look at improved varieties of these crops that resist disease while producing a larger crop, this will add value to the Fulani's farms and their markets. We will purposefully explore these possibilities and provide seed, tools, and knowledge to villages through these agricultural principles.
All the crop species and forestry work is being done on 2/3rds of this tract of land. Let me introduce you to the last section of the property. This is the part that is on the top-right of the above photo. It is the livestock area of the farm, where Denise's love for animals will be explored.
Denise will be asked to help evaluate their cattle production. In doing this, she may explore grazing options--looking at grass species the cattle prefer, improving their diet with added milo, oats, millet, and other grass species, and introducing sectional grazing when an area of grass has been overgrazed to allow the area time to recover. She will teach animal husbandry--taking care of the cattle, preventive care, noticing signs of skin infections, disease, etc. She will teach basic things such as watering, how often to milk, basic clean up of their pen. We would like the chance to help villages build their cattle herd population back up again as Fulani cattle herders move back into the area. Perhaps we can do this in programs that gift an animal to a village, with the expectation that the village returns the gift in the form of it's offspring to sustain this project. Denise will have cattle breeds that do well in the environment. She will also work with other species, such as goats, sheep, and chickens for Fulani farmers to have other animals to raise.
You see there are many opportunities for us to explore in agriculture here on the farm. I admit this is a dream job of mine to help manage a research farm such as this. But let us not forget our purpose for doing this, and it is to build relationships in order to share the Gospel to those who do not know about our loving God and his saving grace in Jesus. We desire to help the people have a better life. But most of all we desire they know about Jesus. Please pray that we find appropriate ways to share our faith while we model successful agriculture production techniques to them.