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Learning together

Connecting learning with the day-to-day experiences of farming and faith in Nigeria

Written by Yunana I. Malgwi and Katharine Norton 2022

A group of seated Nigerian farmers listen to two Nigerian facilitators who are standing either side of a blackboard

Local Nigerian farmers discuss their ideas. Photo: Yunana I. Malgwi/SIL

Three Bolivian women smile and laugh together at a training workshop

From: Participatory communication - Footsteps 117

How to provide opportunities for people to share their ideas and influence change

When Jesus communicated with people, he often connected what he was saying with what they could see around them. This helped them to understand and remember his teaching.

In a similar way, the SIL Faith and Farming team in Nigeria aims to communicate with farmers in ways that connect with their day-to-day experiences of both farming and faith. This includes biblical, practical, oral and accessible communication, all of which are linked to each other.

Biblical communication

When farmers in Nigeria read the words ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it’ in Genesis 3:17, many come to the conclusion that farming is a curse. This gives them a low opinion of themselves and their work, and a hopeless feeling in the face of challenges.

When we explain that God himself planted the Garden of Eden, and that he commanded Adam to cultivate it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15), their understanding is transformed!

One Nigerian farmer said: ‘I was very happy to read that God planted many things… This encourages me to go on better with my farming work and not to feel ashamed anymore. Now that I know God is interested in my farm, I will ask him to bless my work before I plant.’ 

Participants in our training workshops find that studying Bible passages about farmers and farming helps them to grow in confidence and gain a better understanding of what it means to live out their faith in their day-to-day lives.

One participant said, ‘As we looked at how Moses helped the daughters of Jethro to fetch water for their sheep (Exodus 2:16-19), we were challenged to help one another more with farm work.’

A smiling Nigerian woman stands in front of the crops she is cultivating

A participant in the Faith and Farming Programme checks her crops. Photo: Yunana I. Malgwi/SIL

Practical communication

Farmers are very practical. By using demonstration farms, photos and videos, we are able to show what can be achieved when sustainable agricultural practices are used. As the farmers try out the techniques for themselves, they adapt them to suit their particular farming needs.

One participant said, ‘We were inspired by seeing the photos of all the different ideas… Mostly we just grow yams and beans in the rainy season, but we have seen that there are many ideas that we can try, to grow food for our family all year round.’ 

Oral communication

In Nigeria, traditional farming knowledge is passed from generation to generation through people working together and telling folk tales, parables and oral histories.

Building on this, we encourage workshop participants to discuss ideas together in groups. The farmers remind each other of the wisdom of their ancestors, and often express sadness that they have forgotten certain skills. In the discussions they identify people who remember these skills and can teach them again in the community.

‘We used to store our grain in traditional granaries which kept it safe from rats,’ said one farmer. ‘But our soil is tired and does not produce enough to fill a granary. Now we are remembering that we can use animal manure to fertilise our soils and we are excited that our harvests can improve. One uncle has told us that he knows how to make a granary so he will teach us.’

Accessible communication

When he was communicating with people Jesus spoke in a clear and accessible way, and he often used stories to illustrate his points.

Similarly, we try to ensure that we use clear vocabulary and relevant examples at all times. Everything is translated and interpreted into the local language, and participants are encouraged to discuss the material and Bible stories in their own language. 

This helps them to realise that the Bible passages are relevant to them and their work, and that they can turn to God in prayer in the language of their heart.

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Written by  Yunana I. Malgwi and Katharine Norton

Yunana I. Malgwi and Katharine Norton work with SIL in Nigeria and co-founded the Faith and Farming Programme. 
SIL partners with communities worldwide to develop language solutions to expand their possibilities for a better life.

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