Let’s get excited by agroforestry in the Amazon!
BMS World Mission workers are embarking on a new agroforestry project to get people caring about the environment and to combat food insecurity in Peru.
Slashing and burning trees has long been a part of South American agriculture. Not only is it painfully bad for the environment, it also prevents sustainable food production on the land. Now, thanks to the work of BMS workers in the Integral Training Centre in Nauta, in Peru’s Amazon rainforest, people are discovering another way to use their land.
By selectively cutting down trees to leave a canopy, and planting a wide variety of crops and plants which complement each other, a huge selection of fruit and veg can be grown and used. In Nauta, the BMS team has grown a huge array of produce – including cocoa, bananas, cashews, pineapples and many other useful plants. Seeing just how much food is produced will help the pastors visiting the centre for theological training understand the importance of sustainable food production. And as many rural areas struggle to produce enough food, agroforestry can make a huge difference to these pastors’ communities.
With 30 per cent of the population living below the national poverty line, sustainable food production in Peru is much needed. Agroforestry combats poverty by increasing food security – in other words, increasing the amount of food and what variety of food can be reliably produced each year. Instead of an entire community being dependent on one crop that could fail because of a bad season, communities will always reap a good harvest because of the amount of variety grown. “In most of South America, it’s not about bringing in money, it’s about helping people understand how they can make the most of what’s already around” says Mark Greenwood, BMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
While the Integral Training Centre in Nauta (set up by BMS workers Gill Thurgood and Harland Rivas) has been training visiting pastors for many years, it was only this year that BMS environmentalist Laura-Lee Lovering and BMS plant-propagator Sarah McArthur have been able to create a model agroforestry area. Pastors from remote areas of Peru come to learn about leadership and community development, and now they will use the model area to learn agroforestry skills that they can take back to their communities.
As part of the local church’s ministry, the centre is also used by the community – at the weekends, teenagers participate in creation care Bible studies, then practically learn the skills of agroforestry in the model area. A resident pastor also helps to work the land and, as visiting groups to the training centre learn agroforestry skills, the pastor demonstrates how central it is to their church ministry.
“God told us to look after his garden in Genesis 2: 15, so agroforestry is really important,” says Mark, who recently visited the centre. “It’s helping people understand what this has to do with their relationship with God as well.”
Traditionally in South America, caring for the environment has not automatically related to a relationship with God, but through agroforestry BMS mission workers are able to show that creation care is very much an important part of the kingdom of God.
Article by Amy Lockett