Advent Hope: Growing gardens and confidence in Sri Lanka

During Advent, a season of hope and expectation, features weekly stories about Anglicans sharing Christ’s hope with the world. Each story connects with a Mark of Mission and includes a giving opportunity through the Anglican Church of Canada’s new gift guide, Acts of Faith.

K.H. Chandima Pushpakumari, with daughter, shows the bounty of her organic garden. SIMON CHAMBERS
K.H. Chandima Pushpakumari, with daughter, shows the bounty of her organic garden. SIMON CHAMBERS

In Modarapiliwell, a small town in southern Sri Lanka, a woman named K.H. Chandima Pushpakumari knows how to make a garden grow. The petite wife and mother of two climbs and prunes the trees in her three-quarter-acre plot. She makes fertilizer. She builds dirt barriers to retain rain water. She diagnoses and treats diseases and infestations in her crops.

The result of her labour? Over 25 types of fruit, vegetables, and herbs—including cinnamon, tomatoes, coffee, yams, cashews, and pomegranates. It’s enough food to feed herself, her husband, her 11-year old daughter, and six-year-old son.

“Many people have the resources, but have negative attitudes,” said Ms. Pushpakumari in a recent interview. “They have gotten used to receiving aid from help groups and become dependent on that aid. I put time and energy into my home garden.  I have come to believe in what I do here, and to believe in myself.”

Ms. Pushpakumari learned her gardening skills from the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), a partner of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s agency for sustainable development, relief, refugees, and global justice.

After the 2004 tsunami, MONLAR began to teach local Sri Lankans how to use organic and ecological farming methods to grow their own food. MONLAR staff equip the gardeners with saplings, seeds, tools, and training. They also regularly visit the gardeners and help them solve problems throughout their growing season.

Forty families are now part of MONLAR’s home garden program in Modarapiliwell. The gardens allow the families to save money and eat healthier. Some families are even making extra money by selling excess produce at a local MONLAR-run market.

The program also has environmental benefits. As Ms. Pushpakumari gardens, she helps conserve soil and increase its fertility. She uses MONLAR’s organic methods for producing her own liquid fertilizer, pest repellents, and compost. MONLAR also trains gardeners in natural water retention methods and crop diversification.

Simon Chambers, communications coordinator for PWRDF, visited MONLAR home gardens on a trip to Sri Lanka in November 2010.

“I saw women who had become leaders in their communities and providers for their families.  I saw gardens that used to attract two birds now attracting over 30 species, drawn to the indigenous plants being grown,” he said.

“It shows Christ’s hope because those who lost everything in the tsunami have been able to help themselves, and to act as examples for their communities.”

Support MONLAR’s home garden project and other PWRDF partnerships through the Anglican Church of Canada’s Acts of Faith gift guide.

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