Central Asia, Agriculture, 1-11 months, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 310

This organisation is involved in the orchard business and training programmes.

This job involves working with local farmers to assist and train them in developing profitable fruit-growing farms.

Experience in orchard management of apples pears apricots plums and peaches would be helpful. Experience in fresh-fruit marketing and storage is also useful.


Central Asia, Agriculture, 1-11 months, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 354

This organization is involved in an orchard nursery business.

The job entails keeping honey bees in a local orchard.

The applicant should have relevant experience and qualifications.

Agricultural sales marketing

Central Asia, Agriculture, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 742

This organization is involved in the orchard business and training.

The job involves developing sales and marketing for the orchard business.

The successful applicant should have appropriate work experience and qualifications.

A land flowing with honey

“So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey …” Exodus 3:8.

Honey has been associated with God’s abundant provision for his people from the time of the Exodus to John the Baptist, who was known to eat locusts and wild honey. The Bible has many references to goodness and delight accompanying God’s delivery of this remarkable food.

I remember, when I was a small child in Papua New Guinea, curling up under my dressing table to peer through the bedroom window to see my parents welcoming mission workers who came to town from isolated villages in our region. Supporting God’s frontline workers has been a part of our family DNA. I always thought I, too, would be one of those workers. This dream of serving in remote areas could not be realised, however, when our youngest child was born with significant health issues. Instead, my husband and I were convicted of the importance of partnering with those who were serving.

An unused, original Flow Hive that my husband found on eBay in 2016 was the beginning of an exciting new direction for partnership. I had been thinking about the importance of our role as Christians in the stewardship of our environment …“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15). I took a beekeeping course at a farm near my home in regional NSW and came home with a queen bee and a nucleus. Bees are crucial to the sustainability of our world ecosystems and responsible beekeeping was one way we could contribute to good stewardship.

The rate of honey production astounded me. A hive of bees works almost like a single organism with remarkable efficiency and precision. Those bees started producing at least 3kg a week of delicious nectar. Each frame is emptied separately in this system so the honey from each frame tasted different—sometimes fruity, sometimes aniseed. What were we going to do with all this honey? It was far more than I could share with family and friends.

At that time our church was supporting mission workers who had established a carpentry school in Tanzania. They needed to provide half scholarships for students from families whose income was limited, so I decided to sell some honey specifically to support a student who had no parents and no means of income. As it turned out, people loved the idea and my honey provided the student with full board, lodging and education for two years.

When this project was complete, I looked for other ways to continue to responsibly use the gift God had given me through my bees. I found an Interserve Tangible Love project in Cambodia that struck a chord. It was supporting workers who enabled street people to receive rehabilitation from drug addiction and to access pathways to employment.

Later I diversified into using a traditional hive and making reusable beeswax wraps for food storage from the wax from the honeycomb. The sale of these beeswax wraps raised yet more funds for mission.

Kingdom gardening has not only been a unique way for me to support God’s work; it has also opened opportunities for me to speak to people in my own community about the creative and successful work Christians are doing to support less privileged communities. It has provided me with an easy opening to speak of my faith and of the Biblical direction to be responsible for the environment.

This is kingdom gardening and tangible love in partnership.

Kirsti is a mum, a beekeeper and a mission supporter. She lives in regional NSW.

The solution is coffee

We drive two hours outside a busy tourist town in South East Asia, climbing consistently since leaving the banks of one of the mighty rivers of this region, and stop in a village. We are surrounded by dense forests 1000m above sea level. Led by one of the village elders, we walk past the houses and further up the mountain into the forest.

He pauses and proudly points out his coffee seedlings growing in the shade of the forest. He tells us how he is following the planting directions regarding spacing and feeding, and how this village is collecting their food and animal waste to create fertiliser, using the methods they learned from our coffee promoters. We walk a little further and see three men clearing weeds from the forest floor. It is about 10 months until next year’s planting season, but they are preparing now in the hope that the coffee company will choose them to have some of next year’s seedling allocation. A lot of excitement has been generated in this village by the sustainable income that farmers now have from selling their carefully tended coffee cherries to the coffee company that I work with.

Unlike their lowland brothers and sisters, many people in these highland areas have traditionally earned only a small and unstable livelihood from farming. This has led them to clear the forests as a temporary source of income. Deforestation also makes way for other crops that the people have been told will make them lots of money, particularly if they use the chemicals available from neighbouring countries. The majority of people in these areas do not know the Creator of the beautiful environment that they live in and endeavour to harness for their daily livelihood.

These issues inspired the company’s founder to seek a solution … and that was coffee. More precisely, organic, shade-grown, specialty coffee. Coffee could be a source of sustainable income for these people and help them take care of the beautiful environment that God has created in this part of the world. Expats and local Christians are rarely allowed to visit this part of the country, but doing this work means highland people have the opportunity to meet people who have a different worldview.

The coffee company has gained a lot of respect during their 14 years of working with highland villages. Last year we gave out 60,000 seedlings to new farmers in some of the 25+ villages that we now work with. We also had requests for more than 20,000 extra seedlings from new farmers or current farmers who want to increase their crop. This reveals great trust in the company as the coffee tree takes more than four years of cultivation before it yields its first sellable fruit.

This trust has, in no small part, been earned by the work of the company’s coffee promoters who walk alongside more than 850 farmers as their coffee plants grow. These local Christians visit the villages many times a year, teaching farmers how to grow specialty coffee in the forest without chemicals, and how to cultivate the trees to yield fruit that will earn high prices. They also share with all who are interested about the Creator whose creation they are tending. It’s these “kingdom gardeners” who are progressing the heart of the business to give highland people the opportunity to know more about the Creator who loves them.

For the coffee company, worshipping the Creator includes caring for His people through creating sustainable income for the coffee farmers and the 40 families directly employed by the company, introducing these people to the giver of life, caring for His creation through sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly practices, and displaying His character through ethical business practices.

This profit-for-purpose business is now selfsufficient and offers profit sharing with its workers while investing the remaining profits into serving more highland communities. With demand for the company’s coffee outstripping supply, the Father continues to present more and more opportunities to be kingdom gardeners among some of the least-reached peoples of South East Asia.

David and his family live and work in South East Asia long-term. He combines his passion for coffee with his heart for Holy Spirit-empowered transformation.

Faith environment and mission

I’ve always loved the ocean.

I became a Christian when I was about 15.

It’s taken me almost 10 years to be able to understand and articulate how my love for God and my love for the environment go hand in hand.

I always knew they went together. I just couldn’t put words to it. Part of what made it difficult was that I didn’t see many other Christians around me taking the environment seriously. I started to make sense of this attitude when I moved to Tasmania to study Marine Science and Conservation. In order to do this I left a role in youth ministry. A lot of people, myself included, lamented that I would be leaving a ministry that I loved and that God has gifted me in. Why would I leave such an important role, discipling youth and bringing young people to Jesus, in order to go and save some fish?!

I now realise that many of these faithful Christians had the viewpoint (perhaps without even realising it) that creation is a temporary thing and there aren’t really eternal outcomes for it. This is not a criticism of them – I had the same understanding. I’m so grateful for my time in Tasmania. There, I had the opportunity to explore and come to an understanding that I believe is much more whole and much more grounded in God’s Word.

Matter matters. This statement blew me away! Matter matters. Have you ever asked why Jesus was resurrected in a physical form? Why not simply in a spirit form? Well, it’s because the physical is important. God makes a huge statement in the resurrection of Jesus that he cares about the physical. Matter matters. This statement has huge implications for ALL that God has created. Though we as humans are unique because we are made in the image and likeness of God, he has still conferred value on everything he has created.

Fast forward a few years and I started working at a mission agency. Once again I was stuck as to how my love for people, my passion for God’s mission and the environment could go together. I faced questions like: does caring for the environment have any relevance to mission? I‘ve slowly realised God’s mission is much bigger than I first thought. The question isn’t if these things are relevant, but how.

We also need to ask other important questions. How does the way we relate to the environment and use its resources affect the people and communities we long to see transformed by encountering Jesus?

Research shows that many commercial fisheries are currently not managed sustainably[1]. A large portion of the world’s poorest people rely on fishing as a form of employment, food security and nutrition. So suddenly the question about how much we should care about fish and the oceans becomes a question about how much we should care about the people who rely on these fish.

We all live in the context of relationships – with each other, with God, with ourselves and the world we live in. Sin breaks and distorts these relationships. Through Jesus Christ, reconciliation and redemption restores these relationships. Caring for creation should be life giving, drawing us closer to the Creator and helping us to practically and biblically love our neighbour. It’s all about restoration of right relationships. And isn’t that what God’s mission is?

Interservers are helping Central Asian communities build solar-heated, earthquake-resistant houses using local materials. They’re designing low-cost pumps to irrigate farmland in dry conditions. In South East Asia, Interserve business owners invited their staff out of the city to enjoy the rainforests and waterfalls for a day. For some Interservers, issues of environmental sustainability are core to their professional service. Others integrate these practices into their everyday life. Together, we’re all learning how to integrate our care for creation into wholistic mission… so that we can see lives and communities transformed.

Katherine is a mission mobiliser for Interserve. She has an Honours degree in Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability, a Graduate Diploma in Divinity and loves to chat about mission and the environment! Get in touch at katherine@interserve.org.au

[1] The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018. Accessed via www.fao.org/3/i9540en/i9540en.pdf

Whole of life discipleship

Whole of life discipleship

Rod and Helen* have served in Pen Asia for the last 8 years; he as an agronomist and she as a home-schooling mother.
Here, they each reflect on what it means to follow Jesus in the diverse contexts of their daily lives.

Helen’s perspective

‘Whole of life’ discipleship means living a life of faith alongside others and encouraging them in their faith journey. This is very challenging to me because it’s intricately linked with my own faith journey. Discipleship of others feels most natural, and most authentic, when it overflows from my own experience of following Jesus, my own experience of being His disciple.

I’m still learning how to stay aware of His presence amidst my everyday activities and to walk through my days with Him. I’m still learning to turn to Him over and over again in small moments, with thankfulness and cries for help. I’m still learning to put my failings, my hopes, my needs and the needs of others around me into His hands.

As I learn more about how to follow Him, and as I experience His loving care, His provision and His encouragement, then I find myself sharing these experiences in a natural way with those around me.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I find it hard to strike a balance between being intentional in discipleship and allowing the Spirit to lead me. I am committed to encouraging others to follow Jesus more closely, but I want to do it in His strength, relying on His wisdom and His timing and not my own. The times I feel a welling up in my spirit, an urgency to share an experience of His grace or an encouragement from His Word, are the times I sense His Spirit touching others through me. I pray for my heart to become more sensitive to His nudges and for more of these moments that seem truly God-directed.

The people I live my everyday activities amongst are the ones I have most opportunity to share with and encourage: my three kids who I teach at home each day, a few local women who I come into contact with regularly, and a few other expat friends in our community. These people, with whom I interact most closely, see the best and the worst of me. Amidst the messiness of my everyday life I hope they will see His strength made perfect in my weakness as I seek to follow Him.

I have the opportunity to live life and faith alongside our house-helper Bee*. She is from a small village in the south of the country but is living in the capital with her husband while he does further study. She works in our home to help support her husband’s studies and they live with us. Bee is a follower of Jesus, but her husband is not.

It is a privilege to walk alongside Bee and we’ve experienced some exciting answers to prayer. She was keen to learn tailoring skills whilst living in the capital; but we knew it would be difficult to find a tailor who would be willing to teach her around her work hours, and who would teach her a wide range of skills rather than seeing her as an opportunity for quick money or as someone to give all the drudge work to. We both prayed about how to find the right tailor to approach and one day I felt a strong urging to take Bee to a particular tailor who had made some clothes for me a couple of times before. I shared it with Bee and we went there that day. To our delight, the tailor agreed to teach Bee for a reasonable ‘one-off’ payment and for an open-ended amount of time—until Bee learnt as much as she wanted to learn. Bee has been learning alongside this tailor for over eighteen months and it is working out so well. An obvious answer to our prayers!

It’s harder to walk alongside Bee when circumstances are difficult and His answers are less obvious. It’s harder for me to trust His timing and His wisdom and to encourage Bee to do the same. Earlier this year Bee’s mother was very sick and so my family and I joined Bee in praying for her. Despite our prayers and our efforts to try and find the right medications for her, Bee’s mother died. Her family is left in a difficult situation with two younger sisters still at home and Bee’s father travelling away for work.

Although Bee’s husband is not a believer, he attends church with her each week and has been interested to read some Christian books and even a Study Bible. He has remarked that Christians really seem to care for other people and he was struck by the difference between the Christian funeral for Bee’s mother and the Buddhist funerals he is familiar with. He hasn’t decided to follow Jesus yet. Bee and I are still praying for him.

As I walk alongside others I learn so much from the way they live as a disciple. I have been challenged by Bee as she works in our home. She does her work with such diligence and care, always doing tasks to the best of her ability, and never seeking recognition or praise. When I read in the Word about taking the attitude of a servant, I think of Bee. Her example challenges my own willingness and efforts to be a servant.

Rod’s perspective

Eight years of living in Pen Asia have provided me with a variety of experiences related to discipleship and how discipleship might work in this context.

In a broad sense, discipling others is to be available to help shape their spiritual life. There is a sense of this being intentional, and yet also a natural process to help others seek increasing fruitfulness in their lives. Discipleship viewed this way is what we might refer to as sanctification.

As westerners, we usually think of discipleship as taking place during a set period of time, often early in our spiritual journey, a time we set aside to let God do His work. Discipleship may fit into a class at a set time where we form our theological views. Perhaps we ignore the claim that God has on our lives, that our journey of growth should be continuous and ongoing, that God can use chance encounters or even suffering to form and shape our spirituality—that He is orchestrating all things to work together for our good.

Adopting this approach fits my context. Local folk don’t split apart their spiritual lives from their secular lives. Spirituality permeates everything. Discipleship, then, can take place through all sorts of actions, forms and situations. Discipleship is actually a whole lot of life experiences with the key ingredient being the promptings of the Holy Spirit (who, by the way, works so powerfully in us; see Col 1:29).

For some time, I managed a team made up largely of Buddhists. Despite our context (where evangelism is viewed as creating disharmony and may lead to expulsion), there were many opportunities to share Christ gently in word and deed. Some of this was direct: sharing a parable at a training session, explaining my Christian motivation to walk alongside the poor, praying with those in difficult situations, or responding to questions about my faith. But much was indirect: consciously donning a servant leadership approach, respecting others, discussing ethics and morals, or demonstrating love in action.

My current team is made up of believers, quite a different situation. We have been following a Bible study series to explore and discuss passages in depth. The book of Romans, for instance, is not something to be rushed through. Much of our discussion has centred on questions from our staff that have not been answered in their church settings. Discussion of theology has led them to consider life application in areas such as diet and health, raising children, the use of technology, and ethical business practices.

Living as a Jesus-follower means, however, that discipleship stays blurred. It involves a whole lot more than simply sharing scripture passages. It involves showing, demonstrating, guiding, or applauding others as they put Jesus’ words into practice. It may also be listening, crying, or hearing broken stories. Much of this takes place in the midst of the everyday. Note how often Jesus performs an action or provides teaching while he is “on the way” to somewhere else. Am I ready to adopt this view, to be available anytime, to point others to the Jesus way?

Lately, I’ve enjoyed asking our staff about their faith journeys and helping them relive why it is that they follow Christ. I like to encourage them to expand their faith, such as through specific prayer or re-reading small passages of scripture. Attending their church services has also been encouraging for them, giving them a kind of solidarity and me a deeper understanding of the challenges of worshiping in their context.

What about those who are yet to follow Jesus as their Lord? Discipleship can then take on the form of revealing the truth of scripture as played out in real life. Acts of kindness play a role here. When I worked in development, building a bridge with a poor community, a major undertaking for all involved, led to changes in mindset about “Christians” such that some villagers are now working with a nearby Christian business. These are small steps indeed, but as we are faithful in small ways, so God can do His work to orchestrate bigger changes in the future.

Rod and Helen are Interserve Partners in Pen Asia

*Names have been changed

Snow and starvation

One of my first impressions of Mongolia during a visit in 2002 was that it is a land of contrasts and extremes. I’ve now been living in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, for 16 months, and the contrasts still stand out. Extremes of poverty and wealth; modern city lifestyle and nomadic herders; space and congestion; and it goes on.

But the contrast that stands out and dominates is that of the weather, and this past year has been greater than normal in its extremes. Mongolia has a continental climate with warm to hot summers and very cold winters. The last winter, some say, was one of the coldest for 30 years, with temperatures dropping to -50°C in some places. It has also snowed more than normal resulting in the fiercest winter in living memory. The previous summer was fairly typical, but with less rain than normal. So this contrast of a dry, warm summer where grass and consequently hay production was poor, followed by a very cold and snowy winter led to what is called a ‘dzud’. This dzud has been very severe.

A friend, travelling in the countryside for a few weeks, stopped at a ger, the traditional Mongolian home. He writes:

“Outside the ger tied up to the truck there was a goat. We asked the herder about how he made it through the dzud. He still had a good size herd. He told us he had close to 1,000 animals but now he has only 200 – 800 of them died in the dzud. The goat that was tied up outside had been found buried up to its back in the snow. It was the only one from that group of his herd that lived.”

Stories like this are typical. Current estimates are that about 20% of the 40 million head of livestock in Mongolia have died. Many that have survived are weak and the spring new-borns didn’t have much of a chance. Many more will continue to die. As of mid-May, there were reports that over 32,700 families had lost at least half of their animals, with over 8,700 households left without any livestock at all.1 A contributing factor to the extent of the disaster has been a huge increase in the number of livestock to beyond what the land can sustain; the Mongolian pastures have been groaning.

But what does this mean? In a country where approximately one third of the population depend on herding for a living, this is devastating. For those who have lost a large majority, if not all of their herd, this means that they now have no form of income. The UN expects 20,000 people to move to provincial centres or the capital to look for work. Unemployment is already near 50% in some places. The price of meat has risen by 50%. Infant and maternal mortality has increased by 30-40%.2 The children of herders are suffering significant psychological effects, among many other knock-on effects.

Many are trying to help but there have been difficulties in such a vast land. JCS is one of many NGO’s playing a part in distributing aid supplies and also looking to the future trying to advise on animal and land management. All that JCS does is done through the local church, but the Mongolian church itself is poor. I went with a JCS dzud relief trip to a small town with a church with which JCS has connections. Aid was given out to 200 families who had lost all their livestock, yet this was only scratching the surface; just as the livestock try to scratch through the snow and ice to find some grass hidden below, so it seemed with our relief efforts.

Summer is now here. Temperatures have been in the high 30’s. It has rained. The grass is green. It can be easy to forget the groaning and desperation of the cold and snow of a few months ago; the contrast is stark. But for many the devastating effects will last for years to come.

Photo: A car buried in a snowdrift; desperate Mongolians await food handouts run by a Mongolian Christian group; a Mongolian ger during a blizzard; Bactrian camels coping with the winter as best they can; Mongolian herders receiving food and other supplies.

Watering the wastelands

In late 2007 our family moved from Auckland, New Zealand, to a “city older than Rome” on the other side of the world. Located in one of the former republics of the Soviet Union, it is a city of old and new, where horse drawn carts still clog up the traffic and internet cafes can be found alongside traditional bazaars, and where both Turkic languages and Russian are spoken.

I am an engineer with a non-government organisation working in the area of Appropriate Technology. The NGO evaluates and uses simple sustainable technology to improve local people’s living standards in the areas of water supply, sanitation and housing.

I had been forewarned that coming to work here wouldn’t be like engineering in New Zealand, and my first trip out to a work site in a neighbouring town, to construct and install a new pump, served to underline that fact. There was the welding machine “plugged” into the power by bare cables pushed into the supply box, with similarly bare cables laid along the ground, awaiting the unsuspecting foot; the visit by a local official keen on a bribe for “allowing” the pump to be installed; the drunk policeman who passed by carrying a gun… I was definitely not in New Zealand any more.

While work here has many challenges to productivity that you don’t face in New Zealand (for example, two power cuts totaling about twelve hours every day), it is still possible to achieve positive change and improvement in living standards for people who desperately need it. Following the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, living standards dropped as the economy collapsed, and although it has recovered slightly, the country is still one of the poorest in the world.

Over the past seven years our organisation has worked with communities to develop appropriate technology solutions such as non-electrical water pumps for irrigation, passive solar houses, solar water heaters, high efficiency ovens and hygienic toilets. Other technologies currently being developed are biogas (producing gas for cooking from cow dung), micro hydro power, and wind energy for electricity production. Some of our technologies have been readily adopted by the local communities while others have not been widely used due to a clash with the traditional way of life and culture. Two good examples of our projects are the coil pump and the passive solar house.

The low annual rainfall here – it’s drier than in Central Otago! – and the very hot summers (with temperatures up to mid-40’s Celsius) mean that many farmers rely on irrigation to water their gardens and crops. Without irrigation the farms turn into wasteland. During Soviet times irrigation was carried out by a system of canals and electric pumps, but many of the irrigation channels are now broken, the price of electricity has greatly increased, and the cost of an electric pump is beyond the financial means of most farmers. If they can scrape together enough money to buy a pump, they have no money left over to pay for repairs when – after a short time – it breaks down because of its inferior quality and the damage caused by fluctuating voltage and intermittent power supply.

Having to carry water by hand from the river or canal severely limits the amount of land that can be watered. Then there’s the physical effort involved for those sent to get the water – often children and women whose lives are already hard enough! Carrying water instead of doing school work is a fact of life for rural children.

As an alternative to the electric pumps, our organisation introduced a “ram” pump, which does not need electricity. A ram pump is good if there is a big height difference between the water supply and the pump location. However, there are many streams and canals where there is a good flow of water but no significant change in elevation. A new pump was needed that could work without electricity and use only the power of the water flow to operate.

Then along came Jonathan, an engineer from New Zealand… he and his family spent a year here as part of Interserve’s On Track programme. From theoretical beginnings (with a little help from Archimedes), through to prototypes – made from rubbish bins and garden hoses – all the way up to full working models, Jonathan developed the coil pump. The coil pump uses the water flow energy in a stream or canal to drive a paddle wheel with a large coil of pipe attached to it. The greater the length of pipe on the paddle wheel, the higher the water can be pumped uphill away from the river.

From Jonathan’s initial work, the pump has been further developed and installed in lots of places, supplying water to houses, small farms, and even to trees in a cemetery. By using only stream energy these coil pumps can lift water up to 30 or 40 metres vertically above the river and supply 10-60m3 (up to 60,000 litres) per day. They are built with locally available materials, cost much less than electric options to set up, and – best of all – cost nothing to run. The coil pumps are very popular, with word of mouth as the main advertising, and the demand for the pumps each summer is greater than can be supplied. Our aim is to teach people how to make the pumps themselves so that they don’t have to keep relying on us, however there are often problems caused by poor quality materials and ongoing design issues that continue to need our attention.

The climate here in the winter months is also fairly tough. Temperatures below zero are normal and last winter saw many days of -20 degrees Celsius, colder than in much of the rest of the country. With the dramatic increases in energy costs, most people struggle to keep warm during winter. Traditional houses use mud bricks and are usually not insulated, meaning they are cold in winter and weak during earthquakes. We live in an earthquake zone even more active than Wellington; there have been a couple of big earthquakes since we arrived here, the most recent wiping out most of the buildings in a village about 100 kilometres from us, killing 74 people.

To address the need for warm, safe and cheap housing, our organisation developed the passive solar house. With our region averaging 270 sunny days per year, solar energy is a readily available source for heating. The passive solar house is well insulated and uses the sun’s energy during late autumn, winter and spring to heat the house. Large windows face the sun and trap the heat (working rather like a greenhouse), utilising a verandah area that then circulates warm air through the house via internal vents. During the hot season, when the sun is higher in the sky, the windows are protected from the sun by large eaves. The house uses a new type of oven for cooking and heating (another product developed by our project); it is significantly warmer, less smoky and more fuel efficient than traditional models. The house is also more resistant to earthquakes because of its foundation design and timber framed walls, which allow it to flex and move without being destroyed. The new building technology uses only locally available materials and is no more expensive than houses built in the traditional way.

All our project work seeks to help rural communities and urban poor. By providing free advice and assistance with technologies like those described above, we can bring about change for good. We can break down distrust and suspicion as to our motives, and show local people what it means to live out a holistic faith that affects all areas of life – physical, social and spiritual.

Our work is not done in isolation, but in partnership with others, locals and expats, including the community development teams who research the problems faced by local communities. We all work together to provide appropriate technological solutions, which are developed to be within the means of most people. As the technologies become more widely known and sought after, we train up local technicians, businessmen, and even pastors, so that they, in turn, can make them available to a larger number of people, while at the same time earning an income for themselves. The success of the coil pump in bringing lifegiving water to the wastelands demonstrates the great impact that someone with technical skills can have here. We’re always in need of more workers (engineers, teachers, health professionals and so on), so if you want to make a difference through your work and witness, enjoy novel work environments and interesting countries stuffed full of mountains, please contact us!

Andrew and Anne and their children, Luke and Hannah, are Kiwi partners who enjoy living in Central Asia; they invite you to join them there.

Daily bread and a wee bit of jam

“Are we really reaching the poorest of the poor?” I asked my co-worker, Badri.

The year was 1994, and we were sitting in a teashop in Galyang, Nepal, discussing whether or not our programme was having the desired impact on the poor people in the community we worked in. At the time we were involved in enterprise development, helping local entrepreneurs develop industries that would then, we hoped, result in job opportunities for the poor.

Our conclusion was, “Actually – no, we’re not,” but just at that moment our order of chow mein arrived, so we never got to explore why we weren’t really reaching the poor. Instead, in his unobtrusively inquisitive way, Badri asked Tilak, the proprietor, how his business was doing. When Tilak responded that he wasn’t happy with the quality of the noodles he was buying, Badri asked, “Why don’t you make your own?” Six months later Tilak’s noodle factory was up and running, employing five poor people, and within two years it was supplying three districts with good quality noodles.

A survey conducted in 2004 revealed that as a result of our programme, a total of 75 people were employed in 11 industries. Our programme was working! But I still had these nagging questions in the back of my mind: Was I really helping people to get their “daily bread”? Were we really reaching the poorest of the poor? When I voiced them to my Nepali colleagues their response was, “Of course you are helping the poor. Everybody in Nepal is poor.”

I still wasn’t satisfied, though, that providing income was all that was needed to feed hungry people. Statistics tell us what we want them to, so I usually accept them with salt-flavoured cynicism, but one statistic stuck in my mind: even when income is increased, only 10% of that increase is spent on food.

Another flaw in focusing solely on income creation was exposed in Mugu, where even though the people were reasonably wealthy, they were malnourished and food insecure. They were selling the nutritious food they produced, and using the money to buy food for their own consumption, but the problem was that the food they bought was of lower nutritional value than the food they sold. One farmer, for example, would sell his litre of milk for five rupees at the local market, then promptly spend those five rupees on a cup of tea at the teashop, and return home satisfied with his day’s transactions. Because his end goal was income, it didn’t occur to him to drink a cup of that milk instead and share the rest with his family so that they could all benefit.

I like to think that my job description comes from the Lord’s prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread… and may I have a wee bit of jam, please?” As a food technologist, one of my contributions to food development in Nepal has been the utilisation of appropriate technology to process surplus food in order to give it a higher market value. Though limited by the lack of electricity, roads, transport, telephones, water and heating fuels, we still managed to produce dried foods such as vegetables, fruits, fruit leather, spices and spice mixes, as well as fruit juices, bakery products and pickles (no jam, sadly – sugar and cooking fuels cost too much). We discovered, however, that there wasn’t much of a market for the processed foods, and we eventually came to the conclusion that what Nepal needs most is good quality, readily available, low-priced fresh food.

A change in mission focus has brought us into the field of food security, which is all about having a secure supply of food with a focus on availability, access and usage. It includes the whole chain of events from ploughing and putting a seed in the ground to putting food into one’s mouth. It recognises that income, marketing and nutrition are also important for having a good food supply – having a secure income means having a secure food supply.

The 21st century buzz word is food sovereignty, which considers the whole environment in which food security and the food chain take place. It looks at rights to land for owning or renting, rights to water for irrigation and drinking, access to markets, access to forests and environment conservation in general. Right to food is also talked about a lot. This is the legal aspect of food sovereignty, which says that the government of a country should be responsible to see that everybody has access to food security.

What we find we are dealing with in reality is the management side of food supply – management of farms, food production, water supply, forest, food storage, processing and diet, and management at household level, with a particular focus on reducing wastage. Ninety percent of Nepal’s population live in rural areas, which means that a lot of the very poor in Nepal still have access to some land on which they can grow their own food. There are obstacles, however, such as issues with accessing the land and water, lack of technical know-how, and poor land management. It’s these things that we are now trying to address.

I have a hypothesis that God has given everybody enough resources to be able to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education, health and peace. However, it has a rider which says that in order to get maximum benefit from these resources, they need to be shared. This hypothesis is based on the parable of the talents, particularly focusing on what can be done with only one talent. Maybe I’m taking it beyond what Jesus intended, but maybe He envisaged that some unassuming 21st century development worker with a big imagination would take it that far!

Shankar, another co-worker, and I recently visited a village called Pipaltar; it is a low caste village, the poorest in that community. Many years ago, though, it was a thriving village, able to produce its own food and fulfil the basic needs of its inhabitants, because it had a good irrigation system. But then a high caste community settled near it, and took their irrigation intake from the same stream, 50 metres above the Pipaltar intake.

This diverted most of the irrigation water away from Pipaltar, and it slowly withered into the poor community that it is today.

One of our first steps to bring about change involved working with a partner organisation to mediate a water sharing system for both villages. Then as we explored the situation, we discovered that they have enough resources to meet their basic needs, including land to grow sufficient food once the irrigation system is functional again. We realised, however, that success will depend on good management: first of all, of their irrigation system; secondly, of their farming system (to be able to provide a balanced diet); thirdly, of their storage system (there is a lot of unnecessary wastage, including vast loss of stored grains due to rat and insect infestation); and finally, of food within the household – ensuring that everybody gets a fair share and that there is enough to last them for the whole year.

When we consider a goal for food security for the Nepal situation, we realise that looking to the West, at a market-oriented capitalist system, isn’t appropriate. Instead, because we are still dealing with a lot of remote areas and isolated pocket communities, we see that subsistence farming still works, and still needs to work.

The standard we would like to set for Nepal is a well-managed subsistence farm run on a business basis. The present farming thinking is supply oriented, which means that the farmer produces the two crops a year that his ancestors have always produced. What we aim to promote, however, is business thinking, with a demand orientation which considers that the family is the market and the supply should be according to the market demands, that is, what the family needs. So our ideal farm includes the usual two grain crops a year, a vegetable garden, animals and pulses for high quality protein foods, fruit trees and a cash crop, maybe with a beehive and fish pond for variety. With this the farmer can provide all the nutritional needs of a balanced diet for his family, as well as have some cash for school, medicines, electricity, television, jewellery, mobile phone and so on This money will come from selling the cash crop as well as excess food.

Many ask, “How come they haven’t already thought about making changes and improving their own situation?” The answer lies in a fatalism which says that it’s the will of the gods that they are that way and they can’t change it. A change in attitude and mindset is needed and that will come through our demonstrating the alternatives.

One aspect of this that is already working is our promotion of vegetable gardens, or “kitchen gardens” as we call them here in Nepal. Some recent visitors to our work area asked a local woman what difference having a kitchen garden had made to her life. Her response was, “The children don’t get sick as much as they used to. And when they do get sick, the sickness isn’t so severe and they recover a lot more quickly.”

Are we really helping to feed the poor? Yes! We would like to see a 30% increase in food production soon, and later we hope to be able to expand that to 60% and 100%. But we won’t do it just by focussing on income or food production or good management or good marketing. We’ve learned that changing only one factor doesn’t change the whole situation – we need to change multiple factors. We haven’t yet reached the point where all those factors have been identified, especially since each situation needs to be considered independently – we need to explore the local resources and the possibilities. But I am now satisfied that we truly are helping provide people from poor and marginalised communities around Nepal with their daily bread, and that – someday – there will be jam too.

Roydon is a NZ partner, who has been working as a food technologist in Nepal since 1985.