Food for Life: Preventing Illness in Africa

16 June 2015

“Good food equals good health, and that’s what we are all about” – Ken Winbark, Mercy Ships Agriculture program Administrator

What is the Mercy Ships Food for Life Program?

MGB150324_AGRICULTURE_SITE_COMPOST_BANANA_NURSERY_ELIPHAZ_ESSAH_KK0001_HISince 1997, the Mercy Ships Food for Life program improves general health through teaching sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and animal husbandry. Participants discover significantly improved methods of food production.  

The program focuses on training nutritionally appropriate, ecologically sustainable, organic agriculture, while also enhancing household revenue. Thence it trains trainers to multiply the message outwards among Non Governmental Agencies (NGOs) and government agencies, villages, cooperatives and families. The right food is the best preventive ‘medicine’! 

Locals learn how to rebuild, restore, and renew their lives, land, communities and nations through holistic, organic agriculture development. The latest Food for Life endeavour is Aquaponics which will add another avenue for increasing access and availability to fresh, nutritional foods.

Food for Life in Madagascar

Agriculture trainers and trainees

Madagascar deals with many factors that cause major challenges for feeding populations, especially in rural areas.  Unpredictable weather, a fragile ecosystem, deforestation and poor land management all contribute to increasing vulnerability and food insecurity throughout the country. Many of the disfigurements Mercy Ships surgeons operate on develop because of malnutrition. 

Over the 2014-2015 field service Mercy Ships partnered with 6  NGOs in Madagascar: Centre Fafiala, Anae, Ong Mercy Ministries, Love and Care, Caritas, Philadelphia Orphanage.

Creating a lasting impact

This year our amazing volunteers and donors helped build an Aquaponics system near Tamatave to aid food insecurity in the region.  Aquaponics is a complete food producing cycle that uses fish waste water to supply nutrients to vegetables that are grown in a gravel medium. The gravel and plant roots purify the water which returns to the fish tank as fresh oxygenated water, promoting fish growth and providing protein for human consumption, the biggest limiting factor in developing world diets.      

The Aquaponics system uses 95 percent less water than traditional methods and cuts the germination time in half. This method produces 2-3 times the yield of traditional farming or standard greenhouse operations, and will help increase access and availability to fresh, nutritional foods.

Making a difference at the Philadelphia Orphanage 

Orphanage team

On April 12th 2015 Agriculture trainers, Eliphaz Essah and Josh Figini, began a training program at the Philadelphia Orphanage in the Beravy region of Toliara.

This included  12 participants from the orphanage and surrounding community. The projects at the orphanage included: composting, constructing beds for planting, expanding fruit and vegetable production, natural pest repellent training, and assisting in the implementation of a solar powered water pump and irrigation system. 

One of the participants, a local pastor, described the knowledge he gained through the training as “riches for the community.” This project will greatly benefit the children at the orphanage!

Banana Plants

Eliphaz says “The trainees never believed that this type of agriculture could ever happen there because of the fact that Toliara is a very desert area. The surprise and excitement that the trainees have shown over watching the crops germinate has been very encouraging to us.

The germination of the crops has been largely due to everyone working hard to make good compost. We give all the glory to God over the way the trainees’ hearts and minds have been transformed here.”