REAP at present has three core programmes dealing with specific issues relating to the churches’ role in reaching out to the rural poor with relevant teaching. One is Stewardship of the Environment.
The Stewardship of the Environment programme focuses on motivational teaching relating to the environment and sustainable agriculture from a Biblical perspective. It concentrates on motivating Christians to be responsible stewards of the soil and environment that God has given us, through teaching that is relevant to even the smallest farmers who do not have access to cash. It emphasises sustainable and low input approaches that are working with the balance God created in the soil and having a positive view of trees so that they can be incorporated into even the smallest farm. We talk of working with God’s creation rather than against it. See our teaching leaflets on Caring for the Soil and A Biblical View of Trees
In order to enable farmers to take care of their soil practically REAP has been encouraging the use of the ‘A’ Frame to mark contours and the planting of Vetiver Grass along these contours. REAP field staff have been multiplying up Vetiver Grass in two REAP nurseries and have been distributing planting material to encourage local churches and keen farmers to start their own nurseries. When nurseries are established the grass can be used to control erosion and also conserve water from rainfall in the farm by reducing runoff. We have also found it very useful for ‘harvesting’ soil that has eroded from land higher up and for repairing gullies and eroded land. See our teaching leaflets on the ‘A’ Frame and Vetiver Grass.
For protecting the soil we teach about the importance of keeping the soil covered. This includes the use of mulch, or ‘God’s blanket’, cover crops and companion planting. When the soil is exposed to hot tropical sun and heavy tropical rain it very quickly gets degraded, but when the soil is kept covered the bacteria and other micro-organisms in the soil are protected and farmers can work with God’s creation.
Tree planting is an important part of our teaching. Easter is a very positive time for thinking about new life and the future, and it comes at the beginning of the rains in western Kenya. So we have been encouraging churches to be active in an Easter Tree Planting Campaign. We have had some workshops for church representatives to discuss ways of including tree planting in the Easter season. The response has been very positive. The photo above right shows Bishop Isaiah Adagio receiving a tree at the end of an Easter tree planting workshop. See our publicity material on the Easter Tree Planting Campaign.
Since trees are a very important part of the environment, in our teaching we encourage the planting of trees on farmland. As well as encouraging fruit and medicinal trees, we encourage the planting of productive hedges to break up the land and encourage a microclimate that is more conducive to both the home and the crops. We have distinctive teaching on Five ‘F’ hedges, which are productive hedges, making good use of boundaries, where the 5 F’s stand for Fence, Fuel, Fertility, Fodder, and Food. See our teaching leaflets on the 5 ‘F’ hedge. This is complemented by the Vetiver grass hedges on the contour for soil conservation and Tithonia hedges for producing green materials for maintaining soil fertility. REAP has recently started a tree nursery at the garden in Kajulu with particular emphasis on medicinal trees and other trees we are trying that are not readily available in commercial nurseries along the roads.
With recent changes in climate, we realise that it is now not possible to predict well when the rains will come, and our response to this is to change the system of production so as to reduce risk. Strategies that we teach in this respect include diversification, growing more perennial crops and growing more drought-resistant crops. Fruit trees and root crops are particularly relevant for making use of the rains whenever they fall. Moringa is a tree that we are actively promoting in our Natural Medicines programme, but is also very relevant in relation to climate change, as the leaves are a very nutritious and palatable vegetable, and able to make much better use of available rainfall than short-term annual leafy vegetables.