Caitlyn Claverie is a UF Online student, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies: Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources (EMANR). For the past two years, she has been in the south-central African nation of Zambia. As part of a program called Farming God’s Way, she and others are teaching sustainable farming practices in small villages.
“We’ve seen so many people transformed by this practice, both spiritually and physically,” Claverie said.
During a recent presentation to faculty, staff, and fellow students, she highlighted the work she has done in Zambia. This includes teaching farmers how to grow crops using mulch to better retain soil moisture. She also shows them what tools and resources are available in their community.
“We don’t want them to feel like they can’t afford GMO seeds, commercial fertilizer, or fancy tools. Instead, we teach them to use what God has given them. They can use better farm management techniques and readily available livestock manure to increase their yields,” Claverie explained.
The results are impressive. Claverie said during a successful rainy season, a typical one-hectare field in Zambia yields about 20-30 bags of maize. Under the Farming God’s Way method, farmers are producing anywhere from 100 to 150 bags per hectare. She explained that one bag is about 50 kg of maize.
More than farming
Claverie’s work is not exclusive to the field. She is trying to bring biogas to the villages as well.
“I’m using local materials accessible to the average Zambian to create ‘free energy’ with an anaerobic digestor,” she said. “Our inputs include manure and food scraps.”
Many people in sub-Saharan Africa still cook over a campfire. Claverie points to deforestation and a shorter life expectancy due to smoke inhalation as problems associated with that practice.
“Biogas produces methane gas, which can be harvested to cook with,” she explained. “A secondary byproduct is an organic fertilizer.”
While she is teaching farmers, they also show her what is important in their culture.
“They are very hospitable people and will stop everything they are doing when a visitor comes to their home,” she said. “They will also sit with that guest for hours. It was interesting to see how our often-rushed culture compared to theirs.”
Claverie will return to Zambia this summer. She plans on spending another three years serving in the program. You can find more information about Farming God’s Way here: https://www.farming-gods-way.org