How does Business, Faith and Education go together to make a better life in one of the world’s poorest countries?

Or does it?

Yes, I saw it in action – in one of the poorest countries in Africa – Zimbabwe.

We asked agricultural student, Anthony, “what is happening here at Ebenezer school – and why are you here?” It is always great when the respondent has a crystal-clear answer.  Without hesitation Anthony responded, “I have always wanted to be a small-scale farmer and to know God and have a greater relationship with him.”  He went on to describe the “life” he felt the moment he stepped on the grounds of Ebenezer Agricultural School.  “Ebenezer has changed me”, he said, “…and now I want to pass it on to others.”

Ebenezer started in 2007, and since then, the two-year program along with its outlying shorter courses has graduated 13,000 students.  On a yearly basis, they now graduate 10% of the agricultural graduates in the entire country. With two-thirds of the nation’s population under age 24, it makes sense to focus on 18-23- year-olds.  They come interested in “cropping” – plant food crops, or poultry (layers, hatcheries and broilers), or dairy.

Trucks carry thousands of eggs and tons of milk to town each day. Last month they reported harvesting 6, 452 watermelons, 65,732 kilos of butternut squash (72 tons) and 80,180 kilos of tomatoes (88 tons).  Not bad for the work of students who are learning the trade.

Each morning begins with devotions, sometimes together in the simple thatched pavilions; sometimes on their simple frame beds in the dorm – simple, yes, but the important thing is to meet God! We walked in on 120 students listening to some teachers, and soon they were dancing and singing praises to God.  Family nights add to the fellowship and focus on the greater good and greater glory of God. This is truly “work as worship.”

Ebenezer is not just an agricultural microcosm.  Coordinator, Renee Cunningham, dreams of revolution in Africa, not just in Zimbabwe – and it starts with God and education, she affirms.  With 1.2 million of Zimbabwean children and 300 million in all of Africa not in school – she dreams big.  The answer (can you believe it?) is e-learning.  What? – without rural electrification; without money; without much of anything?

“The answer.” she asserts, “is a min-computer and trained facilitators”.  We began to observe how these little tablets were teaching kids to read.  Her dream – to set up Africa’s first #1 learning platform providing a free and accessible education. Nelson Mandela stated that the biggest weapon for changing a nation is education. Renee suggests a Christian education as an even bigger weapon.

There is much to be done to realize the vision, but the Hamara agricultural juggernaut with its emphasis on excellence, hard work, and integrity, along with the vision to change Zimbabwe, will surely prevail with God’s help.

In one week, I had an answer to my question. “Where is it possible to observe tangible evidence of a profitable business integrated with lifting people out of poverty in the name of Jesus, so that His church is growing?”  And I saw it in the context of a humble God-fearing, “living by grace in relationship with God”, family. They count it a privilege to serve Africa.

“The goal is to disciple the nation – and it starts right here with me!”  Peter Cunningham

–Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures
larry.sharp@ibecventures.com

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