ECHO and Mavuno Village believe that collaboration is the key to reducing hunger and improving lives in Jesus’ name. Article by Jasmine Johnson
From teaching sustainable agriculture to following Jesus, ECHO and Mavuno Village are connected in many ways.
Dan and Bethany Tanner’s passion for youth and families blossomed as they worked for Nassa Theological College in Tanzania. After much thought and prayer, the Tanners decided to start their own organization that could assist with the brokenness they saw.
“The issues we saw that were holding back change and progress in Tanzania were the lack of godly families, parents knowing they need to train their children, and a lack of jobs,” the Tanners explained.
While figuring out how they wanted to introduce this new opportunity, the Tanners’ four children helped along the way. One of their daughters, Launa, developed a love for agriculture and the Lord very early on and continued to foster and connect these passions.
Launa believes that “agriculture can really be used as a means to spread the Gospel.”
Mavuno Village, the Tanner family’s orphanage, is centered on faith, community, and agriculture. Through family housing and farming opportunities, they provide the resources and education needed to build sustainable lifestyles.
The family houses place two caregivers, a mother and father, as heads of their household. Over time, they take in as many as 12 children. This group forms a new family and participates in cooking, doing homework, playing, gardening, and going to church together.
Each of the families receives their own garden to produce fruits and vegetables that they eat and sometimes sell. If they have a desire to invest in a larger farm production, fields are available for rent.
“They just wanted to be raising the kids in an environment where they’re learning to be self-sufficient,” Launa said. “Most of Tanzania is made up of small-scale farmers, so they wanted the kids to be knowledgeable about farming.”
Within this agricultural component of the orphanage, Mavuno Village has utilized many of ECHO’s resources. Various seeds, the community website, Swahili materials, and the ECHO East Africa Impact Center are all used at Mavuno Village and benefit the Tanner family’s work.
In addition to these resources, Mavuno Village’s first farm manager, Joel Wildasin, was a former ECHO intern. He established foundational work for the agricultural programs at Mavuno.
As he worked and talked with Launa, Joel informed her of the incredible opportunity an ECHO internship could be.
“My conviction is that missionary kids like her make the best interns at ECHO,” Joel said. “They understand all the questions and problems that ECHO is seeking to answer.”
After Joel constantly encouraged her to visit ECHO, Launa decided to come to ECHO Florida and volunteer for a couple months. It did not take long before the staff and interns were also telling her to apply for an internship.
As the current Mountain Intern, Launa soaks in any new information or technique that is thrown her way. Learning from staff with such a wide range of experience allows her questions to be answered by simply walking around the farm and talking to people.
“This place is just full of wise people and I get to pick their brains,” Launa said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where they’ll stop everything if you ask them a question.”
This unique teaching and learning environment at ECHO Florida also assists Launa’s parents in Tanzania. Launa communicates with her family about her findings and they respond with questions of their own, which she answers after seeking out advice from agricultural staff members.
“People coming from all walks of life but with the same mission in mind is such a beautiful thing,” Launa said.
Similar to the unique environment at ECHO Florida, the Impact Center in Arusha, Tanzania, mirrors this idea.
Joel Wildasin partnered with Conservation Agriculture Specialist Brett Harrison to implement conservation agriculture in Tanzania. The training they both received from the ECHO East Africa Symposium assisted in completing these plans.
Brett believes that the current spread of conservation agriculture near Lake Victoria came as a direct result from ECHO’s impact.
He has received extensive support and education from ECHO symposiums himself. Brett originally moved to Tanzania as a missions volunteer, but developed the passion and drive to learn more about agriculture and develop the surrounding area.
“I am convinced a substantial portion of any success I’ve had in agriculture development in Tanzania is due to ECHO and its varied activities and trainings,” Brett said. “ECHO has provided quality education while also prompting me to study further on my own.”
Reflecting on her direct experience with agriculture, Launa plans to use this knowledge and understanding in the future to better engage in community with fellow farmers.
“I think it’s really cool when we can relate better with the people and we come out with a job,” Launa said. “If I’m a farmer, then I can relate so much more with the people. When the rains don’t come, it’s bad for me, too. You can rejoice with them and mourn with them.”
Through both ECHO and Mavuno’s work to equip and train, people can absorb life lessons and carry those into their daily work, spreading them as they are sent out.