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Foundations for Farming

Foundations for Farming started many years ago when the farm which Brian Oldreive was managing in the north of Zimbabwe was nearing bankruptcy.  Burning and deep soil inversion were common practice on the farm causing terrible sheet erosion to occur resulting in loss of seed and water.  Increasing amounts of money were being spent on the machinery required for ploughing and double rollings of the lands, and yet the yields were declining.

Being a man of faith, Brian asked God to reveal a way for him to get out of the dire situation he found himself in.  God began to reveal to him that in natural creation there is no deep soil inversion and that a thick ‘blanket’ of fallen leaves and grass covers the surface of the soil.  This led him to research how he could apply these ways of nature to his farming.  He began to experiment with Zero-Tillage using a simple hoe on 2 Ha at the highest standards possible.  The results were outstanding and so he had the faith to increase the hectarage under Zero-Tillage.  Within six years the whole farm of 1,000 Ha was under minimum tillage and in subsequent years, due to the yearly profits from then on, other farms were bought and he oversaw the farming of 3,500 Ha.  The success of the principles we advocate are undeniable in his life’s testimony.

The Problem

Africa has 30% of the world’s natural resources and some of the best climate, rainfall and soils in the world. Africa has an abundance of arable land.  Yet, 35% of the population is chronically undernourished and the whole continent of Africa only contributes 1.3% to the world’s produce – it has the same GDP as a small country like Mexico.*

In the last 50 years, Africa has received over US$ 2,000 billion of aid, yet the number of people living in poverty has increased.

While world grain production has been increasing, Africa’s production has remained stagnant.

  1961   2005
USA 4.5 tonnes/ha < 10 tonnes/ha
ASIA 2 tonnes/ha < 4.5 tonnes/ha
AFRICA 1 tonne/ha 1 tonne/ha
ZIMBABWE 1.5 tonnes/ha > 0.5 tonnes/ha

Why is Africa gripped by poverty and hunger?  Why is the situation getting worse despite all the aid being given? With the use of traditional (European) farming methods, Africa has seen a decrease in yields and escalation of costs over many years.  In a climate where rainfall is often limited to short intense periods, ploughed land is washed away and only a small amount of the available moisture is retained.  Traditional methods have sought to extract from the soil without protecting it.

*Kofi Annan – World Economic Forum on Africa, February 2008

A Solution – Foundations for Farming

Foundations for Farming can reverse these trends because it brings a very effective and appropriate technology and implementation system and deals with the socio-cultural causes of the problem.

It is a natural law that those who are faithful with what they have, gain more.  Foundations for Farming principles protect and preserve the soil and rain a farmer is given.

In natural creation:

  • There is no ploughing.
  • There is a wonderful mulch cover from fallen leaves and plant material.

This greatly reduces soil erosion and captures and transfers the precious water effectively to the plants, reducing the risk from drought, pests and disease.

Our recommendations are:

  • Do not plough.

  • Do not burn.

Foundations for Production

The Foundations for Farming principles can be applied in the smallest back yard garden to the largest commercial farm.  On a small scale all work is manual and requires nothing more technical than a hoe.

Typically, you’ll be able to grow sufficient food to:

  • Feed your family
  • Sell surplus to help buy next year’s inputs
  • Sell and make a profit and pay for other living expenses
  • Give to others

We have testimonies of farmers who, by adopting Foundations for Farming methods, have increased their yield over tenfold i.e. 0.3 tonnes to over 3 tonnes.

Profitability is essential for sustained production and development.  The only alternative to profitability for survival in the short term is begging or theft, both of which cause poverty in the long term.


Foundations for a Profit

Profitability is possible if you faithfully apply these management principles of doing everything:

  1. On Time.  Plan ahead.  Prepare well.  Start early.  Never be late!
  2. At a High Standard.  Do every operation and detail as well as you can with no shortcuts.  Be honest and honourable in all you do.
  3. Without Wasting.  Don’t waste time, soil, water, sunlight, seed, nutrients, labour, energy, opportunity etc.
  4. With Joy.  If you do these first three things faithfully without self pity, complaining, blaming others, making excuses, but with thankfulness, there will be no need for fear and hopelessness and you will have hope and joy which gives you strength.

If Foundations for Farming is applied faithfully, Africa can feed itself.


In order to produce a good crop these principles should be applied

  • Maintain a mulch cover.  Don’t burn!
  • Maintain the soil structure & preserve the natural fauna.  Don’t plough!
  • Plant according to precise spacings and specifications in order to achieve optimal plant populations that give your plants the best chance to thrive.  (See ‘Resources’ to see our recommendations)
  • Give nutrition to your plants in whichever form you are able i.e. manure, compost, etc.
  • Weed regularly and thoroughly catching the weeds while they are small in order to save time and energy and cause the whole system to become far more manageable.

Foundations for a Successful Enterprise

  1. Faithfulness with little (Stewardship)
    The bible tells a story of a master who entrusted some money to his servants while he went away on a journey.  Some of his servants invested the money to earn a profit, while one servant buried the money in the ground and it did not earn a profit.  When the master returned, he was very pleased with the servants who had earned him a profit and put them in charge of many things.  However, he was very angy at the servant who did not use the money to earn a profit, and he took away even the little he had, to give to the other servants.This story illustrates that when we are faithful with even the little we have we gain more.  If we are not faithful we experience loss.  If you are faithful with the land you have, even a small piece, and steward it well, you will reap a good reward.
  2. Giving unselfishly
    It is a universal law that the more you give into something, the more you will receive.  We cannot expect the land to give us a harvest if we have not given to it with some sort of fertilization.  Our farming enterprise will become more profitable the more we give of our time, energy & extra effort.

If you are willing to be a good steward, giving of all the resources you have available to you into your farming enterprise, you can become one of the best farmers in the world!


Categories: General
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