Roger & Jos Sharland

Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Working with REAP - Rural Extension with Africa's Poor

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 Roger founded REAP in 1999 to provide practical, accessible teaching and technology for the rural poor based on biblical teaching.

The central focus of their work is teaching poor Christians how to support themselves and be positive witnesses for Christ in their communities.

They are currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, where REAP has its main office.

The work of REAP

The REAP office is a busy place - a constant stream of people come to discuss natural medicines and buy literature. The small nursery to the rear supplies plants to Sudan and India as well as to different groups in Kenya.

The main sphere for their work is in Kisumu and the surrounding area of western Kenya, where they have now set up the Kajulu Garden (see below). Roger works with a broad range of mainline and African Independent Churches relating biblical teaching to the agricultural development process. Rosalia Achieng Oyweka and George Matengo Okoto are the two local part-time pastors who do much of the training.

Stewardship

cropsThey encourage Christians to care for God’s creation and promote sustainable agricultural practices. A particular concern is care for the soil so they promote tree planting and the growth of vetiver grass. Their team in western Kenya has encouraged the church members to start small nurseries so that they can grow vetiver grass for others in the community to use on the contours of their land to prevent erosion.

Natural Medicines

crops

Since many churches discourage the use of traditional medicines because of the past association of local healers with spirit mediums, the team helps the churches to understand the value of natural medicines, which are more easily available and affordable than western medicines for the poor.

They run workshops and always ask those invited to bring a Bible. The participants often think this is strange when they are expecting to come to a technical workshop, but at the end the response is very positive as they see how the Bible teaching will help them communicate to others.

REAP encourages the poor to grow Artemisia plants outside their homes both to deter mosquitoes from entering, (an incidental benefit!) and to harvest the leaves which are dried and made into a “tea” taken as a preventative for malaria.

Christian Women in Development (CWD)

REAP are involved in teaching rural women to make energy saving stoves, fireless cookers, kitchen improvements, perfumed body oils, soaps, shoe polish, plastic ropes from discarded plastic bags etc. and so contribute to improving their lives.

One of the workers on this project is Domitilla Mirongo. She has recently run workshops in a number of different areas, including South Sudan, extending the teaching on the fuel efficient ceramic clay stoves and the practical skills of making moulds for these.

Kajulu Garden

 REAP acquired some land in Geta, near Kisumu, as a demonstration plot and have established Kajulu Garden there. Trees were planted on three sides to provide fuel, fertilizer and fodder, and a variety of fruit and medicinal plants, including Artemesia and Roselle, have been grown. The vetiver grass planted to prevent erosion has already collected over two feet of soil. A vetiver grass nursery was started to supply plants to local farmers who can see its benefits. Where the land was tired and degraded a fast growing shrub was planted to build up nitrogen and organic matter.

A fishpond was created in the lowest waterlogged part of the garden and it displays how fish can be inexpensive to keep and a valuable resource for poor farmers. It has been so successful that a local man is actively promoting fish ponds in the area and encouraging people to plant vetiver grass to reinforce them.The garden has attracted visitors from five continents. Last year thirty prison wardens visited who hope to incorporate REAP's teaching into the prisons!

An enthusiastic new caretaker was appointed in 2015, so good progress has been maintained in the garden.

Teaching

REAP have begun to erect an eco-friendly and cost effective demonstration, training and resource centre on the same site to provide a location for teaching seminars and accommodation where they have examples of their work at hand . This   is also progressing well. Six youths were trained in making the interlocking compressed blocks for the walls. It is a project with the Ministry of Housing, who trained the youth, and each received a certificate.

They have produced packages of clear teaching on their 3 core areas: sustainable agriculture, natural medicines and Christian women in development. They have been able to link the practical teaching with spiritual teaching from the Bible. Unfortunately this wholistic approach sometimes makes it difficult for them to attract the needed funding, as so many see the spiritual aspect that Roger sees as central, as being a diversion!

For more information visit the REAP website www.reap-eastafrica.org or Facebook page

Their link person at St Leonard's is John Sale: johnsale@aol.com