East Africa Symposium

This past week at the ECHO EA office, we had our 5th Biennial Symposium on Sustainable Agriculture Best Practices, focusing on the reduction of poverty and malnutrition, the sustainable increase of yields, and the restoration of the land. Through presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities, a space was created where ideas could be shared and connections could be made. What an honor it was to attend!

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Elena’s highlights:

  • The 160 attendees were an impressive array of people, making networking a dream for Savannah and I! Farmers, development workers, missionaries, government officials, researchers, university professors, students, businesses, and NGO’s–what a wealth of knowledge sitting in one room! It was an honor to engage in conversations with so many of them during the breaks and free time. As I am beginning to think about my next steps after Tanzania, I was able to get advice from some seasoned development workers and missionaries about where my skills and passions best fit in the world of overseas work. I know Savannah and I both came away from the week greatly enriched by the interactions we had and also with a list of contacts we want to reach out to while we are here!

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  • One of my favorite parts of the week was teaching a workshop about fruit tree propagation! I was also able to assist our nursery manager as she taught other workshops. We were able to share practical methods for growing more fruit trees, we did 3 sessions on propagation by seed, by cuttings or air-layering, and by grafting. I spent a year of internship in Florida working in our nursery, so I was excited to be able to share the incredible knowledge that I had gained. I also discovered a newfound love for teaching! The attendees were engaged, excited, and very inquisitive! We fielded so many questions about how to apply these skills to their specific contexts. How exciting that they are wanting to take what they’ve learned back home with them! Being able to equip others to improve their farms, gardens, or nurseries was truly a highlight for me!

  • This week, we really got a broad view of what the major challenges, successes, and interests of agriculture in East Africa are. What are farmers doing well? What are the struggling with? What do they want to learn more about? Here are a few of our major observations:

  • Green Manure Cover Crops (GMCC’s) seemed to be a large theme for the week. Legumes, such as lablab, jackbean, velvet bean, cowpea, and pigeon pea, where a major point of discussion each day. Their potential for soil fertility improvements, nutrition, and increase of yields is huge!

  • The momentum for combing nutrition and agriculture is rapidly increasing. There were many people working in the area of nutrition and health, using agriculture to spearhead their work with communities. The collaboration between these two disciplines will be vital as we move forward in our work.

  • There is a demand for curriculum that combines scripture and agriculture. We were able to attend a session that did just that! Savannah will elaborate on that below.

Savannah’s highlights:

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  • As Elena mentioned, I also loved spending time networking with the delegates during this week! During this time in Tanzania, I am hoping to get more clarity on the possibility of working with different missions organizations in the future. I talked with many of the delegates and received invitations to visit the work that they are doing around Tanzania. As a result, I am planning a work trip in April to Mwanza (to the north west of where we live in Arusha). I am planning to stay in the home of missionaries that I met at the Symposium, and visit their Bible training, agriculture, and health education projects. As I learned about others’ projects, I feel this information is giving shape to my time here in Tanzania. Hearing the successes and challenges of other workers has helped formed my own interests and plans for the future. Personally, I am very interested in how agriculture leads to better nutrition. I recently was accepted into a PhD nutrition program, so I will be starting that in the fall. I am hoping to observe nutrition trainers here in Tanzania.

  • Incorporating farmer feedback: Another big highlight for me was seeing how ECHO staff and other presenters are very intentional about incorporating feedback from the people that they are trying to help. This sounds like an obvious element of research and development work, but in reality organizations sometimes forget to work with farmers instead of just for them. There were also several Tanzanian farmers that came to the symposium. Swahili translation services were provided so that people could even ask questions in Swahili.

I was privileged to meet Joseph Alimua during breakfast one morning, a farmer from Uganda. We got to chatting about the week, and he said, “After this conference, I want to teach the community. I have all this knowledge, but I need to share it. I cannot keep it just to myself. Every one has something. All these farmers have all these resources that they don’t know about and aren’t using. Manure, animals, plants. Someone just needs to show them. I want to show them what they have."

I was privileged to meet Joseph Alimua during breakfast one morning, a farmer from Uganda. We got to chatting about the week, and he said, “After this conference, I want to teach the community. I have all this knowledge, but I need to share it. I cannot keep it just to myself. Every one has something. All these farmers have all these resources that they don’t know about and aren’t using. Manure, animals, plants. Someone just needs to show them. I want to show them what they have."

  • The most impactful session that I attended was a training on how to integrate Bible study and agriculture trainings. The Bible speaks a lot about agriculture, and the Creation Story (Genesis 1-2)  alone has many implications for farmers. The training material can be found here I appreciate that the curriculum is not trying to advocate for any specific agriculture techniques, but is faithful to what is found in Scripture. The trainers have found a lot of positive feedback from trainees!


What a rich week indeed! Lots of time and energy was spent in organizing and executing the symposium, so we pray that the diligently sown seeds will reap an abundant harvest in the lives of farmers around East Africa!

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We are here!

Savannah and I have been in Tanzania for five days now! The first few were focused mainly on getting over jet-lag and introductions to our host family and the ECHO staff.  

As we are getting settled, little things you normally never think about all have to be reevaluated with much care. When do we eat meals? Where can I get money in the correct currency? How do I set up a phone line? What is the proper way to greet someone? The simplest tasks take an in ordinary amount of mental energy! 

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Our host family and the ECHO staff have warmly welcomed us, and we are now beginning to take steps in language learning, project assignments, and­– mostly importantly in my opinion– relationship building.

It is a slow process, making a new place your home. I feel like a toddler sometimes, unable to feed myself and incapable of going anywhere on my own. What an adjustment for us Americans who value our independence! But, in those moments I take a deep breathe, have grace with myself, and humbly ask for help. Right now, I am thankful that for a culture that genuinely cares for others, even doe-eyed foreigners!

We are looking forward to growing in our Swahili speaking, getting started on some projects, and allowing the Lord to lead us day-by-day!

In Christ,

Elena

It's Not About Us

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Written Thursday, January 17, 2019

 

The time has come, we are leaving for the ECHO office in Tanzania on Sunday!

The last several months have been a time of intense preparation leading up to this moment. Support raised, sacrifices made, and hard decisions have been brought before the Lord who sees us and loves us. We’ve packed and studied and prayed. To-do lists have been checked off and important meetings have taken place.

And now, during the breath of time that is orientation week, Elena and I pause to reflect on the fact that this isn’t about us. This is easy for me to forget, because I love to focus on practical tasks and objectives. And yet, the reason that I have committed to six months at the regional office in Tanzania is not that I might check things off my to-do list while I am there, but so that I can serve my Awesome God and “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3).

Working at the regional impact center isn’t primarily about developing professional skills or gaining important experiences. This time is about serving Jesus and His people in East Africa: His church, His work, His plan for the country of Tanzania. This six months is about praying for the impact team, joyfully engaging with them in their duties, and witnessing gently to unbelievers.

Lord, may your kingdom come and your will be done!

Will you join Elena and I in prayer that we would keep our eyes focused on what Jesus wants? That we would look to Him for guidance every day the way that a servant looks to her master? (Psalm 123:2)

Asante sana! (Thank you!)

-Savannah Froese