The story so far outlines some of the initial steps CFM took in emergency conditions towards peace. After sponsoring 250 orphans for several years, in non-CFM, government, Christian and Muslim schools in regions recovering from violence, our attention began to shift to some of the longer-term issues. That is, building the economic conditions that would give us all the joy of being able to support our own families. I have already commented on the poverty in parts of Bukuru. CFM had been providing food relief in the hardest times. Because of the years of violence, farming opportunities had shut down for non-landowners. They weren’t able to rent farming plots anymore due to the general fear and mistrust that had taken over in these years.
So at the beginning of 2020 we took a letter to the Gbong Gwon of Jos, the king of Plateau State. He graciously received us, and we spoke together about the economic conditions. We asked if traditional landowners of our regions could once again allow others to rent land, so they could farm. We talked about the rent income this would give landowners, the increased foodstuff that would be in the marketplace, the increased cashflow this would provide to everyone, flowing on to other businesses and jobs. In economics, we know there is a multiplier effect on any cash injections. Family income levels would rise, and we would be able to afford to pay our children’s school fees. The outlook for our future would improve. We spoke about the need to integrate all sectors, people from all backgrounds, so the contribution of all would lift the whole economy. Any isolated sector becomes a drain, rather than a contribution, and their suffering points us to a future of violence. We spoke of improved relationships, and how we believed that this indicates the time was right for development. If we didn’t take this step, and development didn’t take place, we would remain in the cycle of poverty and violence.
We had to also speak to Christians about this, who sometimes believe we can prosper without this integration and healing of others. This is “personal prosperity,” that is often taught, which discounts the lessons of creation that show we are intertwined. “The eye cannot say to the ear, I don’t need you. If one part of the body is sick, the whole body is sick.” Paul said this in relation to our Christian community and it is very true. That is why we share the principle with our whole neighbourhood, because God is teaching us true building principles. If one part of our city is sick, we are all in trouble. As we heal others, we are healed. It’s moving from the business model of domination, or from the competitive empire building model, to sustainable economic prosperity that comes from inclusion. Only this prosperity succeeds, because the other models, where I prosper on my own, require higher and higher fences, more and more security, to keep me safe from those who are poor. The saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Let’s not work for our own prosperity, but for the improving conditions that lifts us all.
For some time we had been considering the environmental conditions around us. These had become increasingly concerning. The region around Wurin Alheri was forest a couple of generations ago. Traditional landowners, the Berom people, sometimes wear leopard skins during traditional events. Their area was once rich with a whole array of animal life, which is almost gone. As we look out from our Wurin Alheri site we see mainly cleared land. Most of the trees and shrubs have disappeared. These provide nutrients for the soil and encourage insect and bird life, essential for fertile ecosystems. Our hearts feel the way Paul described in Romans 8: “The creation groans.” Not only is the environment groaning, but the people groan as they clash over reducing environmental and agricultural resources. It’s a groan that comes from the breakdown of community and the violence and death that follows. This is really the topic of Paul in Romans as he deals with the breakdown in community between Jews and gentiles. The creation depends on our renewed relationships and our relationships in turn depend on a renewed environment.
In most modern nations we have lost site of the importance of the rural, of the condition of our soils, and of the need for family farming communities. In Western nations agriculture has shifted more to large corporations. In African nations, this has meant dependence on food imports. Western large-scale farmers were told they were feeding the starving masses, but really the West was dumping excess products on to world markets for its own profit, destroying local agricultural capacity. The damage this has done to local community in our regions cannot be overstated. If our nations are to survive, Western or African, farming communities must be rehabilitated. Farming must move away from industrial methods into the restoration of local ecosystem diversity and rich soil fertility. We must revisit Old Testament teachings of restorative sabbath principles, which restore our agricultural environments, and thus our lives. The Adamic commission relates to this: “Adam” means dirt, implying our connection to the creation, its soils, and its ecosystems. Our task is to ensure the flourishing of full natural diversity, flora, and fauna, through which the whole system is sustained. Our imbalanced “heaven-bound spirituality” has disconnected us from creation and from our commission.
This brings us to one very concerning aspect of public policy papers put out by the United Nations (UN) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) in recent years. The Agenda 21 and the Great Reset programs place strong emphasis on further depopulating rural areas and cramming cities. Starting from the early 1600’s, the British Enclosure Acts took over the commons land, driving masses of poor people into the industrial revolution and army. It increased profits in farming, but also capitalised land, and humans as labour, moving more towards Pharaoh than jubilee. British aristocracy advised the early Australian government to limit the sale of cheap land because of the labour needs of their corporations. (Ruth and I saw a report about this in a museum at Murray Bridge, SA.) Land ownership increases human choice and wage costs, which is why God gave each family in Israel land and kept the land in their family by jubilee. The WEF claims corralling people into high rise living will save the global environment. Recently we were in Australia where bushfires were out of control causing much damage and loss of plant and animal life. Depopulation of the regions was put forward as the needed response, but this depopulation is the problem. Aboriginals once managed these forests. Nature is supposed to have a human presence, not exploiting it but applying holistic management as we were created to do.
Though it was a politically hot issue, forestry staff said a main reason for extensive fires was they lacked manpower to maintain forests, to backburn and remove flammable understory, to protect them from fire catastrophe. This shows depopulation of the human presence was the leading causative issue. “Austerity” in government budgets will continue to serve as a reason not to employ needed forestry management. Later in 2020, the NSW government rezoned land to “protect the koalas.” However, we know this won’t protect the koalas from fires. If the koalas were our concern, we would employ the forestry workers to collaborate with farmers to ensure habitats are flourishing and maintained for fauna protection. The NSW government also recently passed horrific abortion legislation allowing abortion on demand up until birth. The policies of the WEF are driving this and many parliaments today. This perceived injustice is breaking the cohesion of our societies. Media in Australia is divided, neither side with the solution of regenerative environmentalism.
Listening to the WEF, experts present their case. “Experts” are sponsored by chemical companies with strong vested interests. Other “experts” are leaders within agricultural companies. It is a corporate takeover of public bodies, which is about the worst thing you could imagine for the environment. The real purpose is to promote markets for their synthetic farming chemicals, their new digital technologies, and fake foods. This is moving us towards a biotech world, where digital products are merged with crops and animals, and even with humans, through manipulation of DNA or digital implants.
In promising technological breakthroughs in medicine, the dangers to humanity are also chilling. Biotech enhancements could seriously threaten the sustainable ecosystem on which we all depend, as has been shown by GMO (genetically modified organism) seed and its destruction of the environment. Elon Musk is the founder of “Neuralink” implants, to connect humans to artificial intelligence through the high powered 5G network. Some experts cast doubt on the work of people like Musk, but the industry has strong commercial drive. More common, are experiments in altering human DNA, as has been done in agriculture. These technologies are being held out as our hope in a world of agricultural and health challenges. However, the root cause of most of these challenges lie in our move away from our original holistic systems into a manipulated world of synthetics and over urbanisation. In agriculture, industrial animal farming is a major problem: separating animals into cruel conditions, filling them and our food chain with antibiotics, putting our societies at risk of disease outbreaks.
God made humans to enjoy rural community, where families, local economies, and health build in a properly managed environment. Crowding us into cities is inhumane, like animals in a factory. It raises levels of depression and food intolerances because we are cut off from nature, and our immune systems go haywire. We cannot live alone, in social distancing, on processed and fake foods, and expect ever new patented medical interventions to keep coming to our rescue. We need interactions with others, even sharing germs. That’s the way we are made. Over urbanisation is treating us like factory fed animals in cages who don’t have proper natural diets, surviving on a constant intake of synthetic pharmaceuticals: a system that has ever increasing side effects. Separating farm animals from their natural habitat denies both them and us the biodiversity that is essential to life. Further crowding us into cities will destroy our agriculture, destroy our health, and overburden our national budgets to breaking point, in health care and welfare costs. The only way to explain how global public bodies could mandate such madness is the financial interests of those now at the helm: the “philanthropic” sponsors of these bodies, in search of new patents.
We have tried our hand at farming on the Wurin Alheri site and nearby plots. We used the methods that have in recent years become standard practice, which include chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Results have been very discouraging. In 2019 we planted corn on part of the site, and it was a total failure. We lost the money we used. One of CFM’s leaders planted corn on a plot beside Wurin Alheri and that was also a complete failure, and he lost his money. Earlier this year a graduate of CFM’s bible college went through violence in his region near Barkin Ladi. He was recovering with us at Wurin Alheri and we got talking about his farm. Farmers in his region experienced the same thing. Yields were dropping, chemical fertilizers were becoming too expensive. The farmers could not make enough to feed their families, let alone sell.
One of missions leaders in Bauchi State had a sudden rise in violence in his area. Strife had risen between herders and crop farmers. He looked into the matter and found that the land of 1,500 farmers had become similarly useless. They needed virgin land, or their families would not be able to eat the next year. For a fee, the elders of the area gave the farmers the rights to clear forest and use new land. They planted their crops and later found cattle grazing there on their crops. Our missions leader found out the elders had also received a fee from the Fulani to graze on the same new land. So the strife wasn’t the fault of the crop farmers or the herders.
After fruitless appeals to the elders and state authorities, our missions leader took the matter to the press in Nigeria’s capital city. When it was aired there was motivation back in Bauchi state for the highest powers to help settle the dispute. The stakeholders were called to the Emir’s palace. They fined the Fulani for the loss in crops. When our missions leader spoke with the 1,500 farmers, gathered in a large field, the farmers decided not to compel the Fulani to pay the fine. It would have been too costly for the Fulani community. They would have had to sell their cattle. Then all these herder boys would still have guns, but no jobs: they would join the gangs of bandits kidnapping people and terrorising the region. This is often the problem we have in the north and the source of a lot of the instability. The farmers decided they would take the loss for the sake of relationships, to quell further violence between them. They made the Fulani only pay legal fees, just for the record.
This raises a lot of issues that are pressing today. One is our farming methods, and another is why there is deforestation. Is it because of overpopulation? This brings up some issues we hear most pressingly from public bodies like the UN and the WEF: the “urgency” about population growth, the climate change “urgency,” the call for wide scale abortion, either to turn around population growth, or to prevent children suffering in poorer conditions. We are even told humans are the main problem for the environment, just for being alive as consumers.
We have leaders, staff members and missions teams in many northern Nigerian regions. They have a lot of knowledge about their regions. They all tell us there are no population issues in these northern states. Ruth and I have travelled through most of these areas. The issue is the loss of fertility in the soil. This is the reason why forests are being cleared. They all tell us farming methods have radically changed in recent decades. Yes, there is population growth, but there is also plenty of land everywhere. All studies show population growth levels out and then declines when education increases. However, the people previously farmed differently. Local landowners originally invited the Fulani to come into their region to benefit from coexistence. Farming and herding communities of different ethnicities integrated crop farms with cattle. The soil benefited from the manure and urine and the cattle benefited from sharing portioned land or eating crop residue. Farmers used crop rotation to put nutrients back into the soil, and local trees and shrubs provided diversity to the ecosystem, even “green manure.” This integration has largely disappeared. There is now a monoculture in farming. Everything is cleared, all plants, all animals, except for the crop that is being grown.
Our team leader who heads up CFM’s Egypt family says where he grew up in Nigeria no synthetic fertilizers were used. The integration between cattle and soil provided all they needed. They just put the seed into the ground and the harvest was bountiful. In Egypt cancer has recently become common in Alexandria. Our leader was speaking to some young people who were recovering from cancer and to elders in the community. They believe the prevalence of cancer is due to the way their food is now being farmed, using synthetic chemicals. In many places GMO seed allows large amounts of Roundup to be used as an insecticide. The Monsanto company, now owned by Bayer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has been forced to pay massive sums to settle cancer cases in America, but lobbies (bribes) government to prevent laws prohibiting the sale of Roundup. Ninety percent of America’s corn and cotton crops (their two biggest crops) are controlled by the Monsanto GMO monopoly. Monsanto owns all the seed under patent. The firm intimidates and takes legal action against farmers to maintain its control. The same company sells poison in agrochemicals and cancer treating pharmaceuticals, collecting massive profits at both ends.
Our leader in Egypt also suspects that the drop in nutrition in foods in the region of his birth in Nigeria, due to the lack of nutrients in the soil, has led to an increase in hypertension and diabetes, exacting a huge financial toll on communities. Food products don’t have the nutrients they once did, so people eat more to fill up, causing obesity. This problem exists today all over the world. Proper integrative farming techniques, ecosystems, and nutrition are required to turn this around. Professor Wannang (introduced more fully in the next chapter) said this move towards processed foods has resulted in a high incidence of cancer which was unknow in his youth. The distinctive of the Nigerian case is that these changes to modern farming happened more recently and the impact on health is more noticeable in this short period. The change has occurred within a generation.
Ruth and I began to research farming techniques. When we looked at our soil at Wurin Alheri it had no life. Before we bought the land, years of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides had taken their toll. The microbial and fungal life that breaks up the soil and makes it permeable to water was gone. The soil was compacted, “hard as stone.” Rainwater would run off, causing erosion, taking away the topsoil. The erosion spoils clean natural waters ways. The soil wasn’t drought resistant because it didn’t retain water. Without microbial and fungal life, the soil was without nutrition, completely lacking in the ecosystem that provides its fertility. Unhealthy soil is unable to sequester and retain CO2, releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere. Synthetic chemicals from farms around us were running off into the waterways and polluting them, eventually finding their way into oceans, polluting marine life. In many parts of the world this runoff into rivers and oceans has brought serious environmental problems. Synthetic chemicals kill the microbial and fungal life in the soil, eventually leaving farmers no choice but to move on, looking for new land.
Researching on this issue we found that there is wide concern that this is happening to farms and land globally. Each year life is extracted from the soil through farming techniques that do not in turn regenerate the soil. Soils are left bare for weed management and this leads to large-scale loss of topsoil in many nations. Some experts estimate that much of the farming land in the world’s leading farm economies may only have 60 years left before it becomes unusable. Some historians have said that all major empires of the past fell because they similarly exploited their soils to unsustainability.
When synthetic fertilizer companies (whose products have been pushed by philanthropists, like the Gates Foundation to “help the poor”) entered our regions their products were cheap, or subsidised. Harvests were at first good, because the soil was still supporting the growth. But when the microbial life in the soil died, and the cost of the fertilizers rose, these farmers were left impoverished. We have seen this with one community after another. The fertilizer is like a drug. The pusher sells it cheap at first, but when the farmer is hooked the drug takes all their money and leaves them with nothing.
One of the appeals of this “drug” is that it makes farming easy: no weeding. The farmer doesn’t have to build the kind of farming methods that deal with weeds and insects, without poisons, and without killing good insects, including bees, butterflies, moths and dung beetles. These have almost disappeared in many regions. How can our ecosystem survive without such diversity? Rebuilding this diversity into farming is complex to learn at first and takes time and effort, but when it is done it keeps yielding increasing fertility and harvests with ever lowering costs. It becomes the golden goose that provides local wealth to the community, without shipping all that wealth out to chemical monopolies. This is what we are after: local wealth building, that gives the basis for shared peace. When this wealth is lost, and the resources have been destroyed (extracted by foreign corporations) then poverty and violence take over.
This hasn’t only happened in Nigeria, but further north, depleting farming conditions in the Sahel and pushing Fulani herders south. The Fulani have also been pushed out of other regions by Boko Haram and by militants in Mali. If they can no longer herd cattle, and they have plenty of weapons from international illegal arms trade, and are joined by other militants pushing south after the fall of Ghaddafi, then we end up with militancy and criminal gangs proliferating in our regions, calling on local brothers to “make money the easy way.”
When violence rises like this, theories of geopolitical religious agendas and conspiracies proliferate. No doubt some of these are real. Some people have a lot of knowledge of Fulani jihads in the past, and the ebb and flow of relationships between ethnic groups overtime. This knowledge can be a hinderance as it can cloud useful responses to heal the divisions at a local community level. Rehearsing similar issues was obviously a hindrance to Jewish/ Samaritan relationships in Jesus’ time. We vowed not to treat any neighbour according to these wider geopolitical divisions that exist in the world. We would treat a neighbour as a neighbour. Boko Haram initially grew because the Kanuri people of north east Nigeria were marginalised by corruption. We have found that when we build up relationships at the local level, wider nefarious power-seeking agendas don’t infiltrate and take advantage of embittered peoples. We are fighting a war against division by building genuine relational cohesion.
Accounts that blame the violence in northern Nigeria on national corruption are true, but when these accounts come from Western commentators, then omissions to the narrative can be problematic. Nigeria’s high level of corruption among Nigeria’s elite was learned from occupying colonial powers. Since colonialism, much of the corruption has been directly tutored by Western corporate interests that have partnered with governments in developing countries to exploit industries, while teaching these government’s how to corrupt the military for their own protection , needed in the environment of injustice they create. It is distressing to see this culture in government and military bodies, and to see how the people employed in these sectors struggle under it, knowing that my nation was involved in its creation. Western commentators would do better by starting with a critique of our own corrupt systems. This would do more to reform the corruption in other places.
This brings us to the biggest problem caused by industrial farming techniques: the temptation of synthetic fertilizers is that crop farmers can “go it alone.” This is especially relevant in the global geopolitical tensions between Muslims and Christians, born out of the competition for resources in the Middle East. This new arrangement of relationships, simply pushing others away, seems very easy. Chemical fertilizers look like the answer. We can push the Fulani out, regain dominance and build a monoculture that is made after the image of a monopoly. It is disturbing how easily this happens. The culture of monopoly and exclusion passes through the whole system, from monopolies like Monsanto to our farming methods and to our broken relationships. The biggest problem with this is that when these chemicals have killed the life in our soils, we have nothing to fall back on. We have burnt our bridges with our ethnically diverse neighbours, and we are now on our own. The promises of dominion were false. The “eye does need the ear” after all. Now, on our own, we are left with the poverty of our soils, and of our souls. Our whole nation is now in trouble. We have ethnic strife and farming poverty. Even the cities can’t survive this.
A lot of the farming disputes arise because of immaturity. Young boys leading cattle bring them on to an unfenced farm, failing to herd them carefully. An angry young farmer responds badly, or even violently. This escalates, sometimes with payback in many multiples. Building new relationships can be hard. It takes the kind of virtues Peter spoke of: adding patience to our knowledge, and brotherly kindness to our patience, and love to our brotherly kindness. We have to work through issues that arise. Almost all of these can be solved by adopting the kind of teachings Jesus shared in the Sermon on the Mount. And when we have relationships with the elders, we can come together to carefully consider the more serious incidents, to talk and make resolutions and reparations as needed. This used to be common practice in our wider regions, but in recent decades this indispensable resolution of problems has been allowed to slip. Restoring this means both sides win. The new relationships are far more rewarding for the environment and for our personal lives and the wellbeing of our communities. But they take work. Synthetic fertilizers lead us to believe that we can avoid this work because the relationships aren’t needed.
Further below we spell out the agricultural changes we have been able to make in 2020, which in just a short time have had multiple positive impacts. This year’s crop farming season is the first season for many years, probably 2 decades, in which there has been no case of farming violence in the region around Wurin Alheri. There has not been one death caused by friction between cattle herders and crop farmers. They have all mixed and shared resources peacefully. This has great promise for the future of farming and our community development.
Speaking of modern industrial techniques in farming, one farmer said he woke up each morning deciding what he would kill that day: weeds, insects or other animal and plant pests, like birds and trees. We have adopted this easy “poison them” attitude towards all our “enemies,” be they on the farm, in our societies or nations, or sicknesses in our body. As said above, this approach has significant side effects, in ecosystems, interethnic relationships and in health. We need an approach that encourages the diverse life systems that enable us to overcome the imbalances that brings plagues and violence. Even weeds have a positive purpose, and better farming techniques eventually overrun them with more nutritious grasses. Weeds show the soil is lacking and they are designed to provide a recovery service. Imagine that: such blessing in weeds, non-patented!
As a global policy today, abortion (more killing, at genocidal levels) is considered the solution, rather than rebuilding the local conditions that bring wealth and nutrition to our communities. The solution to child suffering is justice, care, and love, not poisoning them in the womb. True philanthropy should build local capacity, resilience, and democracy, not import foreign ideologies, products, and control. Aid should be collaborative, not manipulated by external business interests. The knowledge of each group must be shared along with the processes and benefits of development. “Philanthropic-capitalism” (a term recently coined to justify the private takeover of public bodies) prohibits this sharing, but controls and suppresses the smaller parties through patents. God is a God of life and the Christian witness to the world’s problems is to serve and encourage this life at a local level, decentralised, so communities and family can provide the nourishing base for health and the safety of our children and environment. Monopolies care neither for people nor the environment. Both are resources from which profits are extracted, to be then thrown away, as capital moves on to new markets. Chaos even promotes their cause, as it kills off weaker competitors.
Ruth and I read up on the work of Allan Savory, who lives in Zimbabwe. When Zimbabwe received independence Allan gave his large land area to the local community, and together they manage the land. It had suffered drought seasons and much of the land was barren. Allan learnt from the bison in the American plains, how they moved in large mobs, fertilizing the land, and softening the soils as they passed through. The key to the integration of bison and the fertile plains was that the grass was never overgrazed. I had a little experience in cattle farming in the Hunter Valley of Australia, over a period of several years. Cattle were kept in fenced paddocks and the grass was overgrazed, ground hardened, and synthetic fertilizers were needed to restore the pastures.
Allan and his countryfolk learned to mimic the bison. They moved large herds around, never overgrazing. In a few years, the land was restored and today flourishes with grasslands, forests and croplands that are permeable to water and drought resistant. The fresh waterways are restored, trees are sprouting that haven’t been seen in Zimbabwe for years. Forrest and animal habitats have been restored and all the wild animals of Africa have returned to the region. This is the kind of human land management that CFM began to learn from. Today, people are replicating Allan’s techniques, termed “holistic management,” all over the world, and doing so at profit, producing large outputs of cattle and crops, full of nutrition from integrated natural resources, and building family communities as industrial farming practices are laid aside.
If such techniques aren’t taken seriously our farming conditions globally will suffer even further. Sci-fi scenes predict a future where we rely on food grown on building rooftops and balconies in high rise densely populated cities, as a means of survival after the destruction of the land. This is being seriously advocated by some science commentators today. It’s amazing the madness we will succumb to. For cities to survive we must know the value of true farming produce, not synthetic substitutes. We must disassemble the grocery monopolies (in Australia, enterprises like Coles and Woolworths) that use market leverage to underpay farmers and drive communities and families out of business and off the land. This is destroying us all.
One of the issues with economic, job and family instability that stems from fluctuations in resource prices, interest rates and currencies, is the lack of local resilience, through an overdependence on foreign markets. The flow of knowledge, goods, and services internationally is good for our development, but reliance on foreign markets for local resilience means a boom and bust economy. Like in Australia, farmers have built personal wealth on mass production for overseas market. Prices and market opportunities fluctuate massively. This chaos allows larger organisations to move in and take over Australian farming, depopulating the area of families who are able to sustain rural regions holistically. Suicide rates are high among farmers all over the world.
If farming communities focused instead on building local relationships, ecosystems, diversity and support systems, the communities would become much stronger, more resilient, and more stable. It is moving farming from wholly personal achievement to community achievement. Good, long term and stable prosperity is not in super-exports, but in the gradual improvement of a broad base output at home. When a large rural region builds a monoculture on the current global cash crop, it destabilises the future of families and communities. When we rebuild resilient and shared wealth in local communities, we can then serve other communities globally to do the same. Sustained prosperity is intertwined with the welfare of all. We may call this a “local globalism:” global care, collaborating for each community’s local wholeness.
This would not be only true for rural regions, but for townships and larger centres. Building a community-based economy with local industrial capacities and local supply chains decentralises both political power and wealth while providing stability. This is a radical departure from the economic theory of recent decades that has advocated for an unregulated movement of speculative capital through global markets. But this has proved far too volatile for local communities, jobs, and community interests. The purpose of this policy was to enable corporate shareholders to maximize their profits by moving investments from one community to always follow their best personal advantage. In turning back to building local community, this does not mean an either/ or position on globalism or nationalism. Our national borders remain accessible because we serve the interests of local justice for all other communities, not just for ourselves. As local communities heal, the destabilising effect of economic or conflict migration minimizes.
Holistic management means not only managing the diversity of nature, but also the diversity of human relationships. All locals contribute to building the environment and all share from the benefits. Nothing necessary to holism is priced out of the region by unregulated competition. Life is more than economics but includes the indispensable rehabilitation of each part of human and natural existence. This management is the opposite of monopoly. There is diversity in agriculture and human diversity as industrial farming practices give way to holistic farming practices that revolve around the diverse contribution of all. We are learning that to win economically is to lose, because “winning” expels someone or something we need. Monopolies are kissed goodbye as we are weaned off synthetic chemicals. Natural farming systems provide for themselves. It just has to be managed properly and the whole system “builds itself up in love, by which every part supplies.” (Paul)
The restoration of the soils, grasslands and forests even sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Many areas around the world are today being restored this way, turning back desertification. As Allan Savory says, droughts don’t make the land arid, but arid land brings droughts. The recovery starts with the land. If we are concerned about climate change from carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, then more carbon dioxide is sequestered by restoring our soils than by any other intervention humanity can bring. By the process of photosynthesis plants take CO2 out of the atmosphere and pass it into the soil. There carbon is stored and used to nurture the life support systems of healthy ecosystems. Unhealthy soils will not retain carbon but release it into the atmosphere. The number one agent that prohibits soil from sequestering carbon dioxide is synthetic chemicals used in industrial farming. This is an important matter when you consider how much of the world’s farming depends on these chemicals. Restoring the world’s arid land through regenerative processes gives us a balanced climate.
The oil industry has played a brutal part in our greed, as has mining, in both sheer inhumanity (driving geopolitical duplicity, sanctions, wars) and devastation of the environment. All around us in the Jos region land lies waste due to a past tin mining industry. This also contributes to local land tension and conflict. Corporations don’t operate as responsible citizens, but as responsible only to their shareholders’ interests: just like the munitions industry that is so profitable to its owners, yet with brutal consequences for humanity. War is a massive industry and its owners have lodged themselves in government to make war and arms build-up perpetual.
Corporate greed clearly needs to be regulated but governments have failed to do this. Industrial farming is in the same camp. It extracts from the earth just like mining does and leaves desolate land in its wake. It is families who care for land, leaving it to generations to come. This is why God kept Israel’s land in families. The digital revolution is in the same camp, a vehicle only for its shareholders interests. As huge amounts of corporate capital flow into this sector, it too will have massive costs for the environment in resource exploitation. The exosphere will become a satellite junk yard, far beyond what we see now, as space becomes a new devastated “landscape.” The digital industry’s capacity to exploit human data and privacy globally and enslave humanity to its technology will be far beyond any corporate abuse in history. It’s not so much the resource that is in question, but the unregulated corporate greed that exploits it. These corporate interests don’t care, even though they pretend to.
This brings much of the modern debate on climate change into serious question. What is driving it? Global bodies, like the UN and the WEF at Davos have been taken over by the interests of the private sector, especially by many of the world’s largest monopolies and their huge offshore cash reserves. The last Davos summit on the climate had government and the world’s top business owners meet together. This collusion between business and government is very concerning. The conflict of interests is massive.
One thousand five hundred private jets polluting the atmosphere, emitting CO2, flew into Davos in 2019 for emergency discussions on climate change. None of these discussions dealt in any serious way with industrial farming, GMO’s, or synthetic poisons that kill the life in the world’s soils, freshwaters, and oceans, and prevent carbon dioxide sequestering. Though industrial animal farming is a leading cause of global disease outbreak, no serious action is taken to revert to holistic farming. The interests of this industry are too well represented at these summits. The only “solutions” they come up with are new patented technologies, which often have nothing to do the natural long-proven processes of regeneration.
Bill Gates speaks publicly of cattle as one of our main climate enemies. Many researchers connected to vested interests attempt to support this. Two solutions Gates has launched are “false meat” products for human food, and lab-cultured “breast-milk” for babies, to eradicate the need for cow milk used in formulae. He says this will reduce our “carbon footprint.” These two patents are worth billions of dollars. Solutions of this kind do nothing to address our problems while they increase the wealth of the world’s richest 1% massively. Removing cattle from the farming grid and relying even more on synthetic chemicals is a recipe for global disaster. However, monopolies sponsor the non-objective scientific research that comes out in their favour, promoting their destructive farming methods. This is a private takeover of public bodies that are supposed to represent us all, justly, without monetary influence.
Environmental discussions held in forums like Davos are disingenuous and dangerous. The hope of better outcomes for family, life, health, and the environment lie in reconciliation with our neighbours and with our natural environment. Davos pays lip-service to this, while the aim is market control. The last time I listened to the WEF, CEO’s spoke of struggling farmers needing digital connectivity for satellite weather apps. This serves the interests of Microsoft, not of poor families. Impoverishment in India due to GMO crops led to the suicide of thousands of farmers, while digital innovations were to set India up for its failed cash-cancelling experiment of 2016 that hit the poorest even harder. (See the activism of Doctor Vandana Shiva.) Meanwhile in Bangladesh, vaccinations have already been used to install a digital identity marker in each person, which will allow for a range of “personal data services.” The goal here is the commercialisation of personal data and transactions globally: a massive industry. Apps and new technologies can help people, but they can’t replace the fundamentals of nature, and they must not be controlled by monopolies or forced upon populations.
We invited a team from America to come and teach us and some of CFM’s staff and missionaries on regenerative farming practices. This American mission team is linked to the well-known Ecuador missionary martyrs of the 1950’s, where the murderers later came to faith and were restored to the families of the missionaries whom they killed. This American team have visited CFM frequently with teams of different technicians to pass on their skills to the missionaries of CFM. They came in early 2020 and gave us valuable lessons in creating and utilising natural fertilizers. This helps our farms in the initial stages of regeneration, until the soils are more fully repaired.
In 2018 we completed a massive earthen dam structure across a seasonal stream just below Wurin Alheri. Due to good wet season rainfalls, this water reservoir is large, extending back from the wall almost one kilometre. When we were planning this dam we thought about its location. I remember thinking to put it in a place where our “enemies” couldn’t tamper with it. This kind of exclusion contributes to making violence a self-fulfilled prophecy. We must include all our neighbours. We visited all local ethnic groups and asked how this dam could best help them, and the dam was located after consulting with all, to supply irrigation for dry-season crop farmers, for small industries that need water, for Fulani cattle herds and for the Wurin Alheri site. In 2020 a diesel pump and waterline were installed to bring water from the dam one kilometre to the top of the Wurin Alheri site, where it is used to supply CFM’s farms in the dry season: six months with no rain.
In late January 2020, in dry season when fodder supply is low, we went into full scale “bridgebuilding” by inviting Fulani from Bisichi to bring their cattle to feed on our Wurin Alheri site. We have believed for a long time it is unneighbourly to let grass grow on portions of our land and not let cattle access it, but just let it waste. This kind of unneighbourly behaviour festers resentment, exploding into violence later. Even simple things like greeting strangers on the road is the kind of “warfare” that we found so essential when conflict was at the darkest point. This is what we learned in earlier years from Jesus’ comment about people greeting their friends but not their enemies. He said even the pagans do this. But this isn’t yet the love of God. Jesus was teaching about the inclusiveness that is essential for climbing out of violence and sustaining peace. This “greeting” Jesus referred to is a parable for caring for strangers, for neighbourliness towards our enemies.
Other locals and some security personnel were not in favour of the step we were taking. They spoke of the danger involved. But our leaders decided to press on. It is more dangerous not to take the step of inclusion. In February and March cattle came on to our site every night to sleep. The Fulani chose the area right in the middle of the site to camp, surrounded by hundreds of Christians every night, because they felt that was the most secure for them. They trusted us. This built our relationship as we conversed over the next two months. By the time the cattle left, a large area had been saturated with urine and manure, mixed all through the top layer of soil, trampled in by cattle hooves. We gathered up many mounds of manure to use around the whole site during farming season. The value of this fertilizer was significant at market rates but was given to us completely free.
When the rains came, we began to plant. The land was not ploughed, because we had learned that ploughing breaks down the microbial subsoil life, even compacting the soil. Our farming leader (also a CFM pastor) and his team dug small holes, put in a mix of cow and chicken manure, lime and the seeds. Almost free. The crops there took off, with an abundant harvest of corn. Last year the soil of this main field was dead, the crop not worth harvesting. This year we reduced our chemical fertilizer to one quarter, and the harvest went up to the level top farms in northern Nigeria would experience. People noticed the amazing change and came around asking how this had happened. This was after only one intervention from the cattle. Mushrooms are coming up in large qualities all through the field, showing the soil improvement and the life returning. Even though we used manure in seed holes, the areas were the soil had been most improved by the cattle were the best. With more cattle on more of the site over the next dry season, manure in seed holes may not be even be needed and we will soon be weaned entirely off the chemicals.
It’s strange what we call “alternative.” We are embarking on “alternative farming methods,” they say. No, the synthetic chemicals are the alternative, sucking the life from the soil. Building life into the soil is the basic, correct way to farm.
Meanwhile we were also working on a pig farm. Ruth, with the help of ITEC USA (mentioned earlier) learned a little about deep bed pig farming. A concrete floor, needing cleaning every day with a lot of water and chemical cleaners, with regular antibiotic infusions for the animals, are done away with using this method. When using a concrete floor you get myriads of flies and the stench of the pigs is terrible, even from a distance. And the cleaning and disinfecting of the concrete every day is a lot of work. Septic pits for the wash-off from the pig pens require constant maintenance. Instead we have a composting pig pen floor.
About half a metre depth of soil is removed from the pens. Corn stalks form the base, next a layer of dried grass, with some lime and salt, followed by sawdust laid up to floor level. Some pig droppings are removed, left to soak in water for a few weeks, then a little of this is sprayed over the pig pen deep litter beds initially to encourage composting to begin. The pigs love it. It’s natural habitat for them, snorting and digging through the floor, mixing their urine and manure through by the digging. There is no smell, no flies and the pigs are happy and healthy, because the manure and urine are broken down in the compost. No antibiotics are needed and no chemical cleaning agents, which are polluting and costly. After one year, all this compost comes out and is spread on our farms, further enriching our soil, while new bedding is laid. Other pigs farmers are visiting to learn, amazed by the lack of smell, noise, and flies, and at the simplicity, seeing the advantages. It’s a loss for the chemical industries and a big win for rebuilding local soil wealth, putting the money back into local pockets.
We dug a fishpond into the earth. Grass grows through the edges of the water keeping it fresh for longer. An earthen pond stays warmer at night. Thousands of fish are thriving. The water is emptied on to the farms, providing a very rich source of fertilizer, which we spread through our fruit orchards and vegetable farms. We use chicken fertilizer the same way, mixed with sawdust to make rich compost. The chickens provide eggs for our crisis-care children and for the market, and meat when they are finished (old layers are the favourite chicken meat here,) and enriching manure to our soils. The soils in turn grows feed for the pigs, fish, and chickens.
Both our fertilizer costs and our feed costs plummet. Our treatment costs for all our animals fall also. They are much healthier feeding on our local ecosystem. A blow for monopolies, a big gain for local community building. Weeds are disappearing from our grassed areas while useful insects and birdlife are returning. The presence of good insects helps to keep harmful insects in check. Crops are much better protected by this ecosystem. This is all happening in a very short time cycle so far. It starts working as soon as we get the animal/ soils, crop cycle working. This keeps building. Costs approach zero, and food supply goes beyond anything known in recent decades.
In 2020 we have also begun with goats, in partnership with Zoetis, an international vet pharmaceutical company based in Ireland. A veterinary friend in Australia contacted Zoetis, already running a philanthropy project, to ask if they could conduct a cattle veterinary clinic at Wurin Alheri, as a way of reaching out to our Fulani friends. Our Fulani neighbours have suffered loss among their cattle. Zoetis agreed to help and since then together we have conducted surveys to learn the main issues for cattle and sheep health among our Fulani neighbours. The Fulani are excited and fully cooperative. Professionals who helped said they have never met such trusting Fulani before. Their chief said it is because they know CFM will not exploit them with poor products. They learned this from our medical centre. Just to show how easy relationships are to heal. Zoetis and CFM set up a WebEx conference with experts from different universities in UK, Australia, and Nigeria, and with Fulani and crop farmers at Wurin Alheri, all involved together, with one of CFM’s team translating.
At this WebEx conference we realised how knowledgeable the Fulani are about animal diseases. Working with an entomologist from Vom Veterinary Research Centre near Jos, CFM collected data from 100 herders mostly from Barkin Ladi. When asked of the leading problems the number one response was the chemicals used on the crop farms are poisoning the cattle. The Zoetis experts agreed that the Fulani understand this well and are correct in their diagnoses of poisoning. Another issue CFM addressed among our crop farmer neighbours was the burning of their crop residue each year. This burning was done in the past only selectively, where cattle would not graze on crop residue. Fulani would come with their cows and help farmers harvest their crops before allowing the cows to eat what was left. In those days, crop farmers also had some cows and sheep and grazed together with Fulani. Now farmers burn after the harvest to stop Fulani from grazing on the residue. We are advocating for this practice of burning grass, weeds, and crop residue stop. Burning takes away the soil’s cover, kills underground roots that benefit soil, and leaves soil open to erosion and loss of fertility. Soil needs to be covered with protective “clothing,” or “skin,” like any living organism does.
Zoetis also wanted us to raise goats for widows. One male and three female goats are given to local vulnerable families, and they give the first kid of each doe back to CFM, to raise more small herds for more vulnerable families. The giving keeps going all through our regional communities. All will benefit from this: wealth is building for our Fulani and crop farmer neighbours, for vulnerable families, even for CFM, and it brings us all together.
We share together also in the farming process. Hausa (Muslim) neighbours are good at cutting grass, because it is a tradition that goes back a long way with them. If we used machinery for this, we would miss the opportunity for neighbourliness. They come to our site and we pay them to cut grass which we store under our pig shed roof. The grass dries quickly and then is rolled into bales and stacked. More cut grass is put into the roof for drying. This gives us low costs feed for the dry season, a much cheaper way to feed the goats. The grass is nutritious because it comes from fields with improving sols. It builds our relationships between Wurin Alheri and our Muslim Hausa neighbours.
This is what we mean by all the community being involved in the agricultural process. If “children are for all of us” (our joint responsibility and joy, as mentioned above,) then so too is farming for all of us, to benefit together. Our different ethnic and faith groups need to find ways to share in the challenges and joys of farming as one community, watching out for the farming or herding needs of each other and helping. This alone can build the agricultural ecosystems that will benefit us all. This way farming builds community and cohesion, and everyone benefits from it. It is far better than our highly mechanised ways of farming, which separate us all, and even separate us from the soil. Farming must build community, not build individualism. And it must bring us back to the soil, which is the golden goose. Now we know the condition of the Fulani cattle and help solve their problems (like foot and mouth disease) because this also solves our farming problems. This is better than fighting. It’s the best form of “reciprocation.” This is how farming communities are meant to work.
Ruth has been working closely with our Zoetis friends in setting all this up. One part of their research includes sustainability studies. Ruth has been explaining how the whole system of sustainability works here, through building the relationships that build our ecosystems and build our local wealth and thus also peace. It enables us to grow financially and to each pay the school fees for our children. This is what normal aid programs don’t do. Genuine aid must be something that brings about this grassroots democratic sharing and brings wealth and resilience back to the local community. To achieve this, extractive business interests must be weaned out. Then aid and external businesses that have a genuine purpose to build local interests can help. There must be sincere care and respect for each other and for our diverse knowledge and contributions.
A Zoetis director wrote to Ruth about CFM’s sustainably approach: “Thanks so much… this is exactly the sort of information we were hoping to generate in this exercise, and you understand sustainability better than most people at Zoetis! Looking forward to discussing further… I am proud to be involved and pitch in to this project and the work you do. When the rest of my Zoetis work is causing me frustration, this project and your work in the community puts it in to perspective for me.”
As I said above, 2020 has been the first farming season, possibly for two decades, in which there has not been one case of killing locally due to conflict on the farms between herders and crop farmers. These are proven techniques for rebuilding soil fertility, output, local wealth, local relationships, and peace. It’s simply turning from our selfish ways of individualism and separation (which reaches a pinnacle in monopolies) towards community with sincerity. This is sustainable spread-out wealth: wealth in the soil and wealth that won’t be taken away by violence or by the market and price manipulation.
The director of CFM’s farm knows first-hand what Barkin Ladi, which has been a hotbed of conflict in recent years, was once like. He grew up there before synthetic chemical use became widespread in the region. They had good relationships with the Fulani in those days. They used crop rotation and cattle to fertilise their farms. They also used inter-cropping, planting two crops together to provide different nutrients to the soil. This is not to be confused with Moses’ prohibition of farming two kinds of crops together. That was about two species of one kind of grain (like wheat or barley,) resulting in sterile seed impoverishing their farms, like mating a donkey and a horse to get a sterile mule. The stipulation was to protect them against poor farming techniques that would bring poverty to their children, such as we have seen today. Barkin Ladi formerly had abundant harvests. Today, poverty in farming conditions and violence has taken over the region, with much killing and heartache. He is very happy to be directing CFM’s farms, returning to what has been known by his people for centuries, rebuilding the environment. He has a lot of hope, not just for farming, but for the forests, wildlife, and barren lands.
In the 2020 lockdown, the children in our Jos crisis-care home farmed all available space. They were given our cow and chicken manure and raised up the best vegetables we have yet seen, all completely fertilizer and pesticide free. The older children taught the younger children how to do it. When you see this you know there is hope for our future. We even had excess cow manure for a second field of corn. All free. Soon our first new corn crops will be harvested. Then the cattle will come into our land for two weeks and eat the corn stalk residue, while urinating and spreading manure for our tomato farm which will follow them. Then at Christmas, after the tomato harvest, the cows will return to sleep at night for a couple of months. By God’s grace, we will manage the soils as they keep getting richer each year.
Even our aquafer is improving. As we plant more fruit trees (now over 1,000 fruit trees on site) their roots penetrate the ground, making it more permeable to water. After having cattle on our land at Wurin Alheri for only two months at night we also observed softer soil. The hoof action broke up the soil and mixed in the cover crop organic matter. We might think cattle would compact the soil, but their hoofs did the opposite. When land is left undisturbed by herds for long periods in our region, it becomes hardened and grass growth starts to diminish in quality. The improved microbial and fungal life in Wurin Alheri’s soil has already made it more permeable. More of our seasonal annual rainfall now filters through to our underground natural storage rather than washing away our topsoil. We have already noticed the improvement in one of our boreholes during dry season, just from the fruit trees planted before, even with an increased population on our Wurin Alheri site. Population isn’t our problem in the Sahel. Neither is fresh clean water our problem, but our wholesale adoption of “modern farming techniques” and our abandonment of traditional wise practices.
Some have said they want the Fulani sectioned off into ranches with their cattle, like in “modern nations.” Please, no! We don’t want that. “Modern” farms are failing. This mono-ethnic and mono-agricultural system is deadly for soils, for health, for climate, for global relationships and for local wealth. It is a disaster of massive proportions and touches every emergency issue the UN speaks of. We want to live with the Fulani. Without them our farms are doomed. We just have to learn to live with others, something we have always resisted, since I was a child, when I argued about my toys. This is life. We learn how to live together, or we die.
Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive system that makes sense of economics, agriculture, environment, community, and peace all at once. This is how things are supposed to be, working together as a sustaining whole. Individualism or monopolisation of any part breaks down the whole creational intent. As I write, we are harvesting our first corn after reintroducing cattle on our land. Last year we received one bag of useless corn from one of our main fields. After rejuvenating the soil for two months, with cattle walking and sleeping on the field each night, this year we have harvested 200 bags of good quality corn off the same field. In addition, left over manure was transferred to a different field on Wurin Alheri, for a harvest of more corn, and also used on 40+ rich organic vegetable plots planted by our crisis-care children, without the need of chemical fertilizers, for free.
And not one death in farmer conflict in our region. And this is just the start. Allan Savory emailed Ruth and I, speaking of these regenerative farming techniques, “With all the conflict in the country (Nigeria) costing their economy, by their own estimate, unbelievable millions of dollars annually, it is time they did more as a country. It is such a beautiful country that could be playing a major role in Africa.”