Farming God’s Way: Q & A with Anna Mae Glenn, Dean of Agriculture at Liberia International Christian College
The Hope in the Harvest Mission is an American missionary group spreading a farming philosophy called “Farming God’s Way”. The group collaborates with the Liberia International Christian College (LICC) in Gompa, Nimba County to provide students a chance to do farming “God’s way”. The interview below gives an insight into the LICC agricultural program and farming philosophy.
AgriGrind: What is Hope in the Harvest?
AMG: Hope in the Harvest Mission International is a non-governmental organization and we do faith-based agricultural work. We do this by partnering with a local institution, the Liberia International Christian College. We work with the college to implement the agriculture program here. As Hope in the Harvest missionaries, we work as teachers and we also oversee a research and demonstration farm that we have here. Lastly, we go out into communities where we train farmers in something that is called ‘Farming God’s Way’. This is a program that teaches biblical concepts, sustainable agricultural concepts as well as business and management skills. We do this so that farmers can learn how to feed themselves physically as well as spiritually.
How are you convincing students about your farming philosophy in spite of the wide knowledge and usage of inorganic materials?
AMG: Farming God’s way teaches sustainable practices, meaning, using the things that are most natural, the way God created them. Another important thing about Farming God’s Way is that it does help students to realize that there are things that they can do on their own without needing external help. You do not need money to build a compost pile, you do not need money to put mulch down. You just need time and dedication. This is really important in our setting where most times people stress on money to start a farm. We are encouraging them to use what they already have. God has given us as mankind the resources that we need but we just need to figure out how we can use them in the best ways.
What areas does your agricultural program look at?
AMG: We offer Bachelor of Science (BSc) in General Agriculture but the students get exposure to all different areas of agriculture. They have soil science classes, disease management classes, animal production classes, and genetics classes.
How many students you have graduated?
AMG: The agriculture department opened in 2014 and the school opened in 2009; so we are a little bit newer than the rest of the school. From 2014 we have graduated approximately 215 people with an associate degree. Currently, we have 75 students and we are offering bachelor degree.
Subsistence farming in common in Liberia. This is the result of factors which are mostly beyond farmers control. How is your department helping student from going down the same road of subsistence farming that past generation of farmers has followed?
AMG: Many farmers do subsistence farming because they do not realize that they can make money from agriculture. Their main goal is just to feed themselves and survive the next day and this is why many students are not interested in studying agriculture. They do not see it [agriculture] as a way to make money, to do creative stuff but agriculture has the potential to really be used as a business. Agriculture is capable of helping to develop Liberia by providing jobs for our neighbors, and by increasing economic value of agricultural products rather than just selling them as raw goods so that somebody else gets the money.
So for us, the way we really encourage our students to understand agriculture as a business is that we always talk about business whether it is a vegetable production class or swine production class. We are using everything effectively and efficiently so that we can make a profit. God designed his world for things to increase so we are always trying to get our students to see agriculture as a business by involving them in the numbers. We have classes like food processing and preservation and business development and management classes that are helping them understand farming as a business.
What were your expectations before occupying this position? Are some of your expectations already met?
AMG: When I first came here [LICC] there was only the associate degree program and we have been working on the curriculum for the bachelor degree program. So my expectation was to make sure that we were creating courses that will help our students have a well-rounded understanding of agriculture; not just the theory but the practical aspects too. We place emphasis on business as well because in Liberia it is very difficult to find pay jobs in agriculture. So we are always challenging them to think about how they can make their own businesses. I see some of our students doing businesses. So for me, my expectations are being met because the students are going to be able to take care of themselves when they graduate.
What are your department challenges?
AMG: The challenges in Liberia are plenty. We want to give the students quality education and higher quality teachers but sometimes the school does not have the finance to do that. Another challenge that we had when we first started was there were no agricultural books in the library but we are currently working with a university in the United States to solve this problem. They were able to do a book draft for us so we can get agricultural books. We have over 600 agricultural books now and the students are excited. They don’t have to just wait for a teacher to tell them something but they can go figure it out on their own.
What is your hope for the young people in Liberia and agriculture?
AMG: We are importing a lot of our foods in Liberia and there is no need for that because Liberia is a very richly bless nation when it comes to natural resources. I would really like to see Liberia produce more of her own food so that we can reduce the dependency on imported food and provide jobs for farmers and stimulate the economy here. It is not a safe environment for a country to be depending so much on external food sources.