Women in rural communities from across the East-Central Africa region are now closer to becoming experts in the art of vegetable farming and evangelism after attending a recent one-week training event at the Northern Tanzania Union Conference, or church region, headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. Hosted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Africa in partnership with the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) women’s ministry department, the one-of-a-kind event looked for ways to equip women with essential skills for self-sufficiency and poverty eradication in their rural communities.
“Vegetables are needed everywhere,” explained Debbie Maloba, director of women’s ministries in the ECD. “By growing them, women will be able to sell them and get money… thus contributing to the financial growth of the church and the community."
At the same time, women learned how to use produce growing as a way of connecting and developing trust in their communities.
“Practicing vegetable evangelism is a good way of changing lives not only for nonbelievers but for church members as well,” said Zivayi Nengomasha, program and planning director of ADRA Africa. “Many people lack the knowledge about how to eat healthy and take care of their bodies.”
Borrowing from ideas from the book The Ministry of Healing, by Ellen G. White, a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ADRA Africa executive director Tayo Odeyemi said that the church should not be indifferent to human suffering, and suggested that church members need to develop different skills to meet the various practical needs of the communities they belong to.
“It teaches good stewardship to children and parents,” said Tayo as he explained the role of vegetable evangelism. “It empowers healthy relationships in the community, thus opening the hearts of the people to further invitations to embrace the gospel.”
Church leaders shared that the current situation in the region is alarming. According to the latest statistics from the World Food Program of the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger. One out of every three people is either malnourished or undernourished.
Organizers believe that the women who attended the vegetable evangelism training in Arusha are poised to share and implement the skills they learned and help to make a important difference in their territories. Debbie Maloba is already making plans for the next training event in May 2017, which will take place Kitui, Kenya.
“I am confident it will be a very powerful and practical event,” Maloba said.