Vegetables and Flowers

Listening to beautiful music in church today reminded me that there are many facets to a good quality of life. It is an important thing to remember as when people talk about improving farming in developing countries the focus is usually on increasing yields, improving the nutrition of the farming family or reducing negative impacts on the environment. All of these are important but I feel it is important to remember the quality of life issues as well.

My ‘life changing moment’ was a few years ago, in a time before children, Valerie and I lived in Bromley and went to St Luke’s church on Bromley common. The scouts and guides were regular participants in services. During one service, on the theme of the mustard seed, the scouts and brownies gave the vicar a large trayful of seed packets that they had collected ‘for the poor’. The vicar had told them that I worked with farmers in Africa. The youngsters were correct. Seed is a huge issue for farmers in Africa, most seed is saved from the previous year and can suffer from poor germination because it hasn’t been stored well, can be infected with plant diseases and older varieties may fail to produce as much as more modern varieties.

Valerie and I travelled with the seed to Mozambique, I had three concerns – plant quarantine, whether the seeds would grow in Mozambique and although there were lots of packets of vegetable seed that should grow, there were also a number of packets of flower seeds which would have no value. I kept telling myself that I should have sorted them out before I travelled, but time disappeared, I wasn’t able to sort the seed out and so I just gathered up all of the seed packets when I travelled.

After spending time in the capital, Maputo, we were soon heading to a remote village. The village was close to the river with a good supply of water and fertile soils, ideal for growing vegetables. We spoke at a village meeting about new bean varieties (with higher levels of iron than traditional varieties) and then handed over the seed packets from St Lukes. The men came forward delighted to have vegetable seed that they could try. As I predicted they ignored the flower seeds and I thought that I should gather them up and find somewhere to dispose of them. Then the women came forward and shared out the flower seeds, saying “this is amazing, nobody ever thinks about how we can beautify the land around our house, these will make our plots so much more pretty”.

I felt embarrassed that we were being praised for an unintended benefit, but I did feel the scales fall away from my eyes. Life isn’t just about producing more, about a better income, when we bring enjoyment and satisfaction to others we are also improving their lives. Whilst focusing on improving harvests and farming practices it is also possible to consider how quality of life can also be improved.


Faith and Justice Spokesperson

I am delighted to say that Andrew and Valerie Ward have kindly agreed to take on this important role.  Both Andrew and Valerie work in various areas of development and we will be hearing about this in due course.
Andrew and Valerie, and their three children, Sasha, Tiago and Imani. are very much part of our Church and I am delighted that they have agreed to do this as we will all benefit enormously from their input. 

Contact: Andrew Ward  07900 017394