AGDAY-Ag summit addresses global issues
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SIOUX CENTER – Dordt College hosted to a new event, a Global Agricultural Summit, March 3 and 4, with the key words for the summit being “Connect, Inspire, Equip and Act.”
It’s purpose was to bring together local, national and global ag producers, processors, agri-business leaders, developers and mission leaders, educators, policy-makers and students to create relationships that lead to a coordinated, market-based, world community leading to action toward decreasing hunger and poverty.
Ultimately, the summit assembled people sharing a Christian calling and a passion for agriculture.
Erik Hoekstra, president of Dordt College, said nearly 700 people from 25 countries participated in the event, which was 30 months in the making.
“Our global partners were blown away that so many Christians are interested in helping them,” Hoekstra said, “and being a partner with them and feeding 9 billion people and do so from a God-honoring way.
“And I think the same is true for people in Northwest Iowa – they were blown away that (a guy would come from India to talk about a 15,000-head dairy goat operation he was planning to create) … that those people (from around the world) had heard about Dordt College and would come here to seek friendships and partnerships.”
Haron Wachira, a business process/software developer and infrastructure partner from Kenya, spoke about the creation of a cooperative there, which helped farmers work for a profit.
Kenyan farm laborers work on tracts of land about one-eighth of an acre, where they grow a variety of crops including corn, potatoes, coffee and tea
He said because cows and people compete for some of the same food, a farmer often must decide to feed his children – but it also hurts the cow’s milk production when it don’t get enough nutrition.
Wachira’s group taught them about feed rations that would increase milk production, which in turn gave those families more money to use to feed their cow and their children.
The cooperative gives them an avenue for pooling money and getting loans, and for selling milk in bulk, which he said makes it worth more money.
The group taught Kenyan farmers about value-added practices, such as dehydrating vegetables and recycling the water for later use, and feeding the soil with ash.
Samuel Sunil, an architect from southern India, has an 8.5-acre farm, which is considered just larger than an average-sized farm there.
He grows mangos for export, along with goats, sheep and organic vegetables. He employs two couples and a farm manager.
Sunil came to Sioux Center to meet other Christian farmers, pick up ideas on sustainable agriculture and share those ideas when he returns to India. He said he met with a large farmer and a small farmer, while in the U.S. and was impressed with the small farmer who was making a living off of six acres.
“It was a nice contrast,” he said. “In my country we can’t imagine thousands of acres being cultivated,” he said.
He said he intends to retire on his farm.
“Even though I make more money in the infrastructure domain, I’m more content with what I get out of my farm, it’s more fulfilling,” he said. “I cannot explain it in words, but I can feel it in my heart.”
Nicholas Njoroge, a church pastor and chairman of Grafco Sacco, a cooperative that brings farmers and business people together, said Kenyan farmers struggle with profitability because they don’t know how to make a profit and they lack infrastructure and finances.
“We get farmers together with people who can help train them to farm profitably so they can afford to feed their children, clothe them and send them to school,” he said.
Njoroge’s cooperative helps farmers link with marketers, feed providers, veterinarians, Extension people (for training) and financial people to help them know more about profitable farming.
“We teach them there is strength in numbers-that when many farmers work together, they can be more profitable,” Njoroge said. “It’s working- our farmers are getting more milk and that milk is worth more money. Our farmers are happy.”
He said attending the Global Ag Summit was something that helped him personally, as well.
“It helps me know that I am not the only person who struggles,” he said. “It helps me to know I can connect with others and learn that there are ways to do things better, to make my walk more meaningful and profitable.”
Hoekstra said the ag program at Dordt College required their students to participate in some part of the summit, but they stayed for all of it, even though spring break had begun already. And asked for more.
Hoekstra said he hopes to do it again sometime by or before 2020, in light of the fact that the summit partners with Christian organizations around the world, giving them time and the affordability to return.
“I’m so thankful for the students who (study agriculture here) and use it to build God’s kingdom,” Hoekstra said. “And to see these people from all over the world that are Christians as well, who want to use agriculture to build God’s kingdom.
“It’s a beautiful thing and it was a thrilling event. Our motto here is ‘To God be the Glory.’ I’m very gratified.”
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