I was only a girl when I engaged with my first justice issue: women's rights. And that led me to a life-long commitment to justice thinking and acting. I was excited when I was invited, as a board member, to participate in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank delegation to Kenya to see how well one of our conservation agriculture projects are supporting women, men, and their families to become more food secure. The project spans rural areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, but we centred our trip around Nairobi, Kenya. It was a whirlwind trip—there and back within a week—in September 2019.
In the rural areas we visited, women were the farmers. They fit farming in among their other responsibilities, such as homemaking, childcare, and fetching water. They farm small plots, and their success determines whether there will be any food at all for their families. The project involved teaching them ways to produce crops and improve the soil, even as drought threatened annually. In Kathonzweni, they had not seen rain since the previous December.
One farmer, Damaris, was proud to show us her farm, where thin green stalks still survived in the otherwise dry and dusty soil. The rains would soon be coming, and she was ready to capture the run-off and hold moisture in the ground by mulching. Her husband trailed our delegation, smiling as her translated words impressed us visitors. Later, we sat in a circle under a large tree—the only patch of green in the yard—with dozens of other project participants. There were a few men among the sea of women, a couple with their babies.
Damaris, a Kenyan farmer, with her husband.
Credit:The Canadian Foodgrains Bank
When asked how the project had changed things, one man spoke up. He said that when there is no food in the house, there is no joy in coming home. The stress causes conflict and sometimes violence. But when there is food in the home, it is more peaceful. He is willing to come home. There is something to eat.
These rural participants were telling us that improving agriculture directly affected domestic violence in their homes and community; they were demonstrating how connected these two seemingly different issues are. What a hearteningly unexpected result this project was having for these families!
My justice mindset often helps me see different justice issues as connected. One thing affects another and all are linked.
At Canadian Foodgrains Bank board meetings, when we discuss climate change, I think as well about how that links to economic issues, right relationships with Indigenous people, and the movement of displaced peoples across the globe. When we explore how to advocate for an increased focus on agriculture as Canadian foreign aid, I also think about the role of multinational corporations producing agrochemicals, the vulnerability of all farmers to debt, and yet the hopefulness that creation demonstrates when planted seeds grow into crops that can feed thousands.
So the next time you hear me talking about agriculture and then linking it with something as seemingly removed as domestic violence, you will know where this comes from. It should not surprise us because we are all connected, all branches from the same vine (John 15:5). And so all issues are connected. When one branch is helped, we are all helped. Thanks be to God.
Margaret Tusz-King and Damaris.
Credit:The Canadian Foodgrains Bank
–Margaret Tusz-King is one of two United Church of Canada representatives on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank Board of Directors.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank-supported projects through the Scaling-Up Conservation Agriculture in East Africa program are implemented with the financial support of the Government of Canada.
Does this blog pique your interest to participate in people-to-people opportunities with global partners? We invite you to find out more at the People in Partnership webpage or by emailing us at pip [at] united-church.ca.