Small-scale farmer trains over 2,000 villagers

This is Makesure Muchenje’s story: They came for me in the middle of the night, this was some time in 2008 and political violence was at its height. They marched me to the bush and started questioning me about my political affiliation. Unfortunately for me, they were not satisfied with the answers I gave.


Makesure Muchenje with his wife and son and the researcher of the story.
Makesure Muchenje with his wife and son and the researcher of the story.

They called to the eight men waiting in the shadows with logs, sjamboks and other weapons. The instruction was simple – “finish him” they were told – and then the interrogators walked off into the night, leaving me at the mercy of these hired thugs.

I knew them of course, these men who had been instructed to finish me. Ours is not that big a village after all. Everyone knew them, they were all unemployed, and generally hung around the shopping centre drinking beer and picking fights. And for a small fee, they could be encouraged to do what they were about to do to me.

I cried out

They covered my face with a wet sack – to stop me seeing who did what. Then they took off my shoes. The intention was firstly to beat me under my feet as I had heard happens to others.

As they beat me, I started to wonder why I had even begun preaching the gospel in this village. In my heart the word said ‘no, you did right to preach, Jesus is your saviour, Jesus is their saviour’. At that point I started crying out to Jesus, repenting of momentarily regretting his call on my life, telling him I love him, and I love these people.

I asked Him to forgive me, and to forgive them. Suddenly I realised it was completely quiet – no one was beating me, they had all run away. I do not know what made them run – but that was not only the last beating I received, but I was the last person to suffer any political violence in that area.

It had all started in 1995. I was a gold panner when I met Boet Pretorius who was to later lead me to the Lord. Then in 1999 I was allocated land in a government resettlement scheme and I moved to Makonde district in the Chinhoyi area.

Way of life

Boet introduced me to what was then known as Farming God’s Way, now known as Foundations for Farming. It is about more than farming, it’s a way of life, teaching us to obey and do what the word of God tells us. For two years Boet trained and discipled my wife and me. I went to Zambia for another two years with Brian Oldrieve who was implementing this method there.

I came back to my area in 2006, and started to demonstrate this method. This is a new area, and we are all resettled farmers. The soil is not very good, but I persevered, doing everything to the highest standard I could. And year by year my crop got better – but as my crop improved, so jealousy increased.

My hope had been that people would be drawn to this abundance, and wish to be trained. I was looking forward to sharing this good news. I grew up in this area, I know the situation in which people Iive – if you want to see poverty you will see it here. There is also a lot of witchcraft here, and political confusion –and I believed God had put a light in my heart to tell people that they must just trust in him.

Elephants

Sadly though, no-one approached me for training. In fact we were ostracised by the community. There are a lot of elephants in this area, and one time some people from the village used dogs and fire to drive a herd of elephants into my maize field. I found out three days later when the same people asked me why the elephants didn’t destroy my crop.

I asked them how they knew it was elephants, and they said they were there, they saw them, and the elephants just walked straight through the field without doing anything to it. They asked me what muti I had, I told them my muti was called Jesus, and is freely available to anyone. I told them that my Father in heaven is also the father of the elephants; he must have told them ‘this is my son’s field – you can go and destroy the fields of the other father’s sons….

 Makesure’s home, on the far left is the shed where he trains people. Farmers trained in Foundations for Farming principles are raising their yield from the national average of 0.3tones per ha to a maximum of 8tons/ha.
Makesure’s home, on the far left is the shed where he trains people. Farmers trained in Foundations for Farming principles are raising their yield from the national average of 0.3tones per ha to a maximum of 8tons/ha.

In 2008 my crops did so well I won the Mashonaland West small-scale farmer of the year. At the field day a well-meaning government official offered me a 50hectare farm in Mhangura as my winnings. He explained that the soils are better there, and I would achieve even more.

I turned this offer down and explained to him that for me this is not about making money or getting land, this is about leading people to Christ. I was still the only one farming this way – and I kept praying to the Lord that people would come and drink of the living waters and be free from the yoke of poverty. I remember thinking then that Jesus said if you will lift me up, I will draw men unto me. So I kept lifting that banner higher, improving the standards and living a life open to all.

10 headmen

In August 2010 I again invited the community to a compost-making demonstration. At first only about eight people trickled in, then the floodgates opened. Four days later I had trained 160 people. And from then on they just kept coming. First 10 village headmen came asking me to show them how to farm. They were soon followed by another 10 from different villages.

Between the two of us, my wife and I now train an average of 50 people a day. We tell them all the same thing, we tell them man is body soul and spirit – these three things were created to be in relationship with God. But sin destroyed that relationship, and everyone needs renewal, regeneration, so that they can work in harmony with their creator again. We need to ask for Christ’s forgiveness of our sin, so we can live an abundant life.

I tell them my story – they all know me, they know what my life has been these past few years. I ask them how long have your children been cursing me right here in this village, how long have I and my family been ostracised. I ask them whether they have ever seen me refuse to help any of the people who have done me wrong. They all agree that my life tells a story that is different to any they know.

I have trained close to 2,000 people now. No one pays for the training, these are our neighbours, and they are all poor. The dependency syndrome is one of the biggest causes of poverty.

I get a steady stream of visitors now. Some government officers came and asked me how I do it. I ask them what is their motive – because this is the most important thing. I do what I do in obedience to what God tells me. A couple of weeks back I had a gentleman from Australia and another one from Germany – they offered me money.

I thanked them, and told them that if they want to support small-scale farmers then they are welcome, but they need to first seek the Lord and ask him to show them how they can participate with us.

This is not to say we do not need anything, there is a lot of work and the needs are plenty. But this is God’s work and we cannot just mix it with those who have a different heart.

Foundations for Farming founder, Brian Oldrieve will be in Leeds this Saturday. Many will gather to celebrate the goodness of God in lives such as Makesure. All are welcome to join us [email protected]

Post published in: Agriculture

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