Thabiso Matsoso was part of the Growing Nations student programme from 2013-2014. He is now using Farming God’s Way as he serves in Mozambique.
Before I joined Growing Nations I didn’t know anything about conservation agriculture. My family runs a small farm, and it was degrading. When things are not good, we talk with others. I heard from this guy I was talking to who had seen all this beautiful stuff Growing Nations was doing. He told me to go and see for myself. I applied to and visited Growing Nations and was really inspired.
When I went to Growing Nations I was prepared to learn about agriculture and to be given something that was related to agriculture, like an animal plough. But when I went there, I was given the Bible! I remember someone saying to me, ‘What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the wealth and lose his own soul?’ and then I understood that it was not what I expected, that I wasn’t going to be learning about these big farming implements, but actually it was about transforming your spiritual life. Farming God’s Way teaches us not to rely on ourselves but to consider and to seek God first. It took me a long time to understand that, but I think that is one of the things which actually changed my life. I grew up in a Christian family, but sometimes it’s more like a custom to go to church. During that programme at Growing Nations I was totally transformed in a different way.
While I was a resident student we hosted missionaries in our homes, in our villages, and I think it was because of that exchange of ideas and culture and the friends which we made with those people, that made me want to apply for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) programme. It is a two-year programme which brings youth from different countries together to participate while they are learning to serve and reflect as a team. I was placed here in Mozambique for those two years.
I just came to participate, to learn some skills from my team to apply when I go back to Lesotho. But while I was here I realised that it is not about learning skills but it is about serving. That’s when I understood that God calls people in different ways and that I’m called to serve people here through conservation agriculture. I was able to work with pastors who understand the local language. They had learnt theology but didn’t know about agriculture. When we started sharing about Farming God’s Way, we shared that it wasn’t the way we grew up farming, but was a concept which we had learnt from God. God has sent man to take care of the garden, to till it and to work on it. As we shared verses in the Bible with the pastors they were able to understand it better themselves. They then helped me to reach the people.
We are able to sit down with people and discuss things the Bible says, people who I think without conservational agriculture we wouldn’t be able be able to go to or approach. When we talk about farming we will be teaching what the Bible says, and we can ask people what their ideas about it are. Despite the fact that many are Muslims, they have an understanding of what the Bible says because many were born into Christian families. In Mozambique, some communities have turned to Islam because when there are calamities like floods, the mosques will provide rice, food and clothes. That means that we can’t just preach to them, we need to teach conservation agriculture so that they are able to feed themselves and their families. Then their livelihoods are sustainable.