Equipping the Saints at Bible Schools

Students at Bible schools across West Africa are learning ECHO’s farming techniques in order to bring back the valuable knowledge to their communities and churches. 

Driven from his field with his wife and nine children because of his Christian faith, 39-year-old farmer Sanou Arnaud fled everything he knew in order to pursue a relationship with God. Arnaud and his family are just some of the many who have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) because of their faith. 

Taking refuge in a nearby church, he encountered an ECHO training session and was given a small plot of land to apply the techniques he had learned.

Families serve together at Bible Schools in West Africa and young children often play near their parents as they work.

Soon, he was producing over twice the amount of corn he previously had, even with a smaller plot of land. The training that Arnaud received was one of ECHO’s many Bible school training sessions that have been taking place in West Africa since 2018.

Robert Sanou, Director of the ECHO West Africa Impact Center, saw an opportunity to bring people to Christ by involving the church in community development. The training sessions were meant to teach future pastors farming methods in order to be self-sufficient and produce abundant food at their institutes. In the first year, ECHO was able to partner with 24 Bible schools across West Africa, and now has trained 1959 students from Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinee Conakry, and more.

Following the principles of ECHO’s gospel-centered approach, the training teaches the Foundations for Farming (FFF) method, also known as Farming God’s Way. Daniel Kabore, director of the Biblical and Theological Institute of the Apostolic Church in Burkina Faso, had been teaching holistic ministry already, but ECHO offered him a new perspective.

“With ECHO, we learned to love God in nature. And we farmed according to God’s principles, and this way of farming affected my life,” Kabore said. “I learned that we can take care of God’s creation and all of nature. This is a part of the ministry.”

These four-day-long Bible school training sessions seek to address the main challenges of agriculture in each country they are hosted in, teaching theology students who will later work in both rural and urban areas with farmers and gardeners. 

The idea that God has provided a foundation for faithful stewardship of land and creation is the overarching theme of FFF. The training emphasizes a set of guiding principles for sustainable agricultural practices and transformation of the way people farm.

“The Bible has many references where God is talking about the way of farming,” Promesse Kansie said, an ECHO West Africa trainer who leads these sessions. “People are surprised – even I remember last time when we were in Nigeria, this director said that it feels like he hadn’t read the Bible before. He didn’t know that there are verses talking about farming, and specifically the right way of farming.”

Various traditional farming techniques such as burning mulch and tilling fields were destroying living organisms in the soil and decreasing the soil fertility with each passing year. In order to combat these ongoing issues, ECHO teaches farmers to make bioliquid fertilizer and pesticide from natural ingredients; gardening techniques; recipes from plants like neem and pepper; what nutritional plants add value to their diet; and methods of animal husbandry.

As Kansie explains, farmers leave training sessions with a “complete kit” of knowledge: FFF, including fertilizers that will feed the soil, and pesticides that will protect their crops with ingredients that are not harmful for the environment or their health.

“The way God is farming in the forests, nobody is going there to spray any pesticides,” Kansie said. “The plants protect each other. So, we are imitating nature.”

Students are taught how plants like moringa can be used to improve their food’s nutritional quality, even using parts of the plant for medicinal purposes or to improve health. Plants like chaya have been brought from the ECHO Global Farm in Florida to grow in West Africa for their benefits.

Above: Peanuts were ready for harvest when trainers visited to follow up at the Evangelical Bible School near Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  

In order to provide their own food, many of the Bible schools started gardens on their campuses to supply fresh fruit and vegetables for the schools’ kitchens. One of the former students who had received training at ECHO was hired to work at another Bible school in Burkina Faso, where they were spending money on vegetables that had been treated with unknown chemicals. This student implemented a garden there to reduce food expenses, using only what he had learned at ECHO to feed the students.

“By building their own garden, it also helps the students to learn more,” Kansie said. “And then when they go to their own house or their own community, they’re going to say they can also do it for themselves or train the church members to do it.”

In addition to starting their own gardens, selling local poultry is an important income-generating activity for families in rural areas of West Africa and provides higher food quality. An important topic in the Bible school training sessions is how to properly take care of poultry, including caring for chickens when they’re sick and making chicken feed with locally available ingredients.

Biblical beliefs that translate into the technical teachings of FFF include planting on time, to a high standard, without wastage, and with joy. 

Kansie compares FFF to working in an office — a person cannot leave their office for eight months out of the year and still expect high-quality work to be produced when they are back. Farmers must be working year round to ensure that their land will produce a good harvest.

“We tell them to give time to their activities, and to prepare for the rainy season,” Kansie said. “They should dig their holes, prepare their compost, and gather the mulch.”

Aiming for a multiplication effect, ECHO trainers ask the Bible school students how many people they can share the topics they have learned with after the training session is complete. Some say 10 people, some say all of their church members, or even all of their village. Moreover, trainees will continue to spread agricultural knowledge by word of mouth in areas where ECHO cannot reach, further multiplying.

“My hope is to hear that there are pastors who are spreading FFF,” Kansie said. “There is an insecurity that we cannot go there, but we are transferring ourselves to another person in the community who can do it easily.”

Kansie often receives calls from past trainees, updating ECHO on their farming progress or reaching out with agriculture questions. They created a WhatsApp group (social media) as a space for continued community after training and encourage trainees to implement all of the things ECHO taught them.

ECHO’s goal is to spread their teachings past their reach for impact, so others can continue their work beyond the training sessions offered. Leaders “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” as Ephesians 4:12 states, and ECHO’s mission is to equip the saints to improve the lives of others in the name of Christ.

Next Story

From the President/CEO

As I write this, we have just concluded our 30th International Agriculture Conference, where 193 were gathered from around the world to connect: connect to new ideas, options, and strategies and connect to ECHO and each other.

Equipping the Saints at Bible Schools

Students at Bible schools across West Africa are learning ECHO’s farming techniques to bring back valuable knowledge to their communities and churches.

From the President/CEO

As I write this, we have just concluded our 30th International Agriculture Conference, where 193 were gathered from around the world to connect: connect to new ideas, options, and strategies and connect to ECHO and each other.

Global Directors

ECHO’s Global Directors: L-R Erwin Kinsey, East Africa; Patrick Trail, Asia; Robert Sanou, West Africa; President/CEO Abram Bicksler, Ph.D.; and Grace Ju Miller, Ph.D., North America.

Giving Tuesday

The right seeds can make the difference between having a harvest or not. The right technique can provide an income even if a drought shrivels the main crop. The right knowledge inspires hope when the situation seems impossible! You can change lives through the global #givingtuesday campaign. With your gifts, ECHO will be able to train more families this year!

Dry Seeds, Abundant Growth

ECHO researchers are working towards an accessible two-ingredient desiccant that assists in the process of drying and storing seeds.

A Call to Missions

Grace Brinsfield will continue her work in missions and agriculture in Eastern Senegal after returning from her ECHO Internship and international field experience.

Innovative Green Charcoal Briquettes

At ECHO’s Appropriate Technology Symposium, Clement Mzinga and Rehema Onesmo of Women Development for Science and Technology Association (WODSTA) demonstrated the Portable Cement Stove, Wonder Basket Stove, and briquettes made and promoted by their organization to inspire others to make their own.

Board Retreat for Strategic Planning

The ECHO Board of Directors met over two days to focus on goals and objectives for ECHO’s next strategic plan.

Christmas Gift Catalog

Through the ECHO Gift Catalog, your gift, in honor of a loved one, will reduce hunger and improve lives worldwide and your recipient will have the heartwarming feeling of knowing that a gift was made in their name!