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Religious Communities

Faith communities already help with a variety of initiatives to help alleviate poverty such as by running opportunity shops to help people buy clothes and other items cheaply, by running food banks and by providing moral leadership.

Leaders in faith communities are likely to be aware of families who are facing significant stress due to job losses, inability to find full time employment, chronic illness etc whose members may therefore be at risk of poor nutrition due to poverty – which can cause (or worsen) health problems and contribute to learning and behavioural difficulties in children.

Religious communities are well placed to help alleviate hunger and disease related to poor nutrition by promoting increased local food production in their town or city.

Many established churches are set on spacious grounds – often beautifully landscaped – with large areas of lawn.  Establishing gardens for food production on church property would be achievable for many congregations.  (The large surface area of the roofs of many churches, temples and mosques also provides a good opportunity to harvest rainwater for garden irrigation.)

Faith communities typically include people of all age groups and there are bound to be members who have gardening experience that they could share within their congregation to help establish gardens to produce food for members of their faith community and/or other people in need in the local area.

Establishing food producing gardens on the grounds of a church, temple or mosque may also lead to members of the congregation becoming motivated to start their own gardens at home as they gain confidence in growing food, just in the same way that when schools start gardening projects, the families of children attending the school often take up gardening at home.

Religious communities can potentially support members’ home gardening efforts through some of the following ways:

* By establishing worm farms on church (or temple or mosque) grounds so that appropriate food scraps from events held at the church can be made into fertiliser and any surplus that is not needed for church gardens can be made available to members of the congregation for free or at a nominal cost.

* By collecting seaweed (such as on church picnics at the beach) and using it to make liquid seaweed fertiliser that can be made available to members of the congregation.

* By purchasing fertilisers in bulk so that members of the congregation who need fertiliser can obtain it at a more affordable price.  (Quality fertilisers are comparatively inexpensive when bought in bulk but can cost a lot when bought in low volumes from garden stores.)

* By holding workshops to help construct wooden frames for raised beds, do-it-yourself ferro-cement rainwater collection tanks etc.    (This provides an opportunity for children and young people to learn basic wood working and construction skills.)

* By creating a collection of heritage seeds that can be shared among the congregation.

* By identifying people in the congregation who have a particularly urgent need for good food (such as low income elderly people, families with young children) but who may have difficulty producing their own (due to poor health, long working hours etc) and assigning a member of the church community to help them establish and maintain home gardens.

Faith communities are also likely to have members who can help young (or older) people who are having difficulty finding full time (or any) employment by providing practical training in food production, increasing people’s self-sufficiency, skills and self-esteem. (You can read about one such successful project at this link http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/northland/dargaville-districts/4405062/Garden-project-grows-skilled-workers .)  Skills gained in these sorts of initiatives may potentially lead to self-employment or cooperative enterprises. (See the Enterprise/Employment page for details).

Categories: Religious Communities

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