Farmers in the Fandriana region of Madagascar fought over water for their rice crops. They had to stand guard over their rice paddies at night in case neighbours bored holes in their dams, stealing their water. There was bitterness, violence, and, as a result of poor harvests and malnutrition. A three-year project funded in part by the European Commission, “Alleviating Poverty through Improved Livelihood and Health,” is teaching new rice farming techniques that should lessen contention in the area.
Farmers now require less water but get up to a 75 per cent higher yield. This increase gives the farmers all the rice they need with enough left over to sell, thus providing steady income to an impoverished community. Rasosokavana Marc, a member of the local farmers association is ecstatic.
“When ADRA began teaching us the new rice farming techniques, the fighting stopped,” said Marc. “Now as an association and a community we are able to work together and help each other.”
Visiting from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency office as part of the mid-term evaluation, Howa Avan-Nomayo, ADRA Programmes Assistant, noted that “their enthusiasm to express their gratitude for the improvement in their lives was an extremely humbling and fulfilling experience.”
The ADRA works with people in poverty and distress to create positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action. As a Christian Relief Agency, ADRA is delighted when the change is not only physical but makes a positive difference in relationships as well.
Jesus himself taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). ADRA’s goal is not to convert people to a particular form of Christianity, but its employees do believe that the work in which they are involved practically demonstrates God’s love and compassion.
The meetings that Howa attended in Madagascar demonstrated a strong community spirit. Farmers laughed and joked, showing what he called “a new sense of community cohesiveness.”
Critics sometimes wonder why faith-based agencies should be involved in development. They argue that such assistance should be left to secular organisations, untainted by the possibility of proselytising. ADRA-UK Director, Bert Smit, disagrees.
“We are seeing lives being changed for the better,” he says. “We are giving them increased physical security and a quality of life far beyond what they had. Surely that is Jesus’ mandate.”
ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.