One of our big initiatives for 2018 has been a seedling sharing program in our village. Our vision for our coffee test farm has always been to introduce new coffee varieties to our region. These varieties produce a higher quality coffee and when connected to the right market, can dramatically increase the income of the farmer.
Our seedling program works like this: We partner with a farmer in our village and loan him X amount of seedlings. In 3-4 years when his coffee is producing he returns 2X the seedlings to us, which we then use to start the process over again with other farmers. The farmers have ownership of all the coffee seedlings and can sell coffee to whoever. This is just one of many ways to do a seedling program, but it fits well for our area. Farmers love the program because no money changes hands and it is low risk for them. We love the program because we have an inexpensive way to get good genetics out into the community.
Another benefit of the seedling program is that it gives us an built-in opportunity for relationships in our village. Because villagers know we're expecting seedlings back from them in a few years, they know we have an investment in what they're doing. To check on this investment, our farm manager (also the village pastor) will go around and check in on the farmers once every month or so. While he's there he'll ask about the coffee, ask about their family and ask how he can pray for them. The hope and prayer is that this will lead to opportunities for him to share the gospel.
Last year, when we started our community surveys to find out which coffee varieties are available in our village, we also asked villagers if they would be interested in participating in the seedling program. The plan this year was to distribute 10,000 seedlings to our community, assuming there was interest and people would actually clear their land and be prepared. We were blown away with how much interest there has been from our village. We've partnered with 9 initial families to roll out the program, but it is looking like we'll need 20,000 or 30,000 seedlings next year if we want to meet the demand just from our village.
Please be praying for the seedling program. This is the first year that we've tried this, so there are sure to be some hiccups along the way. The goal is that this will be the next phase of our ministry here and something that will easily multiply out to more villages.
Seedlings are being distributed to farmers this upcoming weekend!