Recent grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) have gone to the Rural Service Center in India and an agricultural development project of Brethren congregations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A grant of $8,000 has gone to the Rural Service Center for its work in tribal and small-holder communities in the Ankleshwar area of Gujarat State, India. The money will support center operations that link small farm operators to resources such as soil testing, biogas development, animal vaccination, and greenhouse produce.
The Rural Service Center is an extension program begun by the Church of the Brethren in the late 1950s. This support for the center allows the church to stay actively involved in a region of India that is fast becoming a modernized breadbasket, according to the GFCF grant request. Within range of Mumbai, the area has an insatiable appetite for food, energy, and technology. While agribusinesses may flourish, smallholder farmers find the complexities of technology and capitalization overwhelming. The suicide rate of Indian farmers is among the highest in the world, the grant request said.
“For an Indian family to lose land that it has possessed for generations is devastating,” said Jay Wittmeyer of the church’s Global Mission and Service program. “A Global Food Crisis Fund grant of $8,000 enables the Rural Service Center to help vulnerable farm families navigate the tumultuous times of globalization.”
A grant of $2,500 supports reconciliation and agriculture work in the DRC. A cluster of Brethren congregations in the Congo are working at mediation with displaced Pygmy and Bafulero communities. The funds will help enable displaced people to return home and restart agriculture, with reconciliation work remaining the prime focus.
For five years, Brethren in the DRC have been actively engaged in a peacebuilding program titled SHAMIREDE (Shalom Ministry in Reconciliation and Development). Initially funded by the UN Development Program, the endeavor more recently is being supported by the Church of the Brethren in the United States, and also works in collaboration with the Quaker Peace Network.
Two displaced groups, the Pygmy and Bafulero, have been engaged in a violent conflict for a number of years, according to the GFCF grant request. The conflict recently escalated, with people killed, villages burned, and many families displaced. The source of the conflict has been a degrading of hunting-gathering resources for the Pygmies, and the slow creep of the Bafulero into Pygmy regions for slash-and-burn agriculture. Both groups have recognized the need for mediation, which the Congolese Brethren are working at by visiting communities in the mountains to carry mediation forward. Families are beginning to trust the process and want to return to their home areas. This funding helps them restart agriculture and get farming back on track.
For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to www.brethren.org/gfcf .