Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ECHO Conference in Tanzania

By Sara:

In early February, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the ECHO conference in Arusha, Tanzania.  I am very thankful that I got to participate this year.  I loved being able to see my friends who I worked with in Uganda and to catch up on the work they are doing in Amuria, Katakwi, and Kaberamaido.

And I met with friends from Tanzania, other parts of Kenya, and even the US.  I admit I never met Austin, the guy on the left in the picture below, until the conference, but he worked on the WHRI Farm in Texas before I was there.  The next person from the left though, Eli, worked with me on the Farm, and Neil was the director while I was there and now lives in Tanzania.

Here's a photo from Kerry Nobuhle Wiens who took pictures of the conference - the two people on the right are Moses and Simon who I worked with in Uganda:

I also enjoyed meeting many new people, even from countries like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, DRC, and Burundi.  It was really great to hear about the different things that are happening in their countries and to learn from them. 

There were many interesting presentations and lectures.  One of them was about a major weed called Parthenium Hysterophorus, which originated in the central US/Mexico and has now become a major weed around the world.  It can cause dermatitis and respiratory problems in humans and is quite toxic to animals.  And, it majorly reduces yield of food crops because it suppresses their growth and grows super quickly.  They've been seeing it in Tanzania, including right across the street from the conference, so we went out to see what it looks like so everyone can keep an eye out and get rid of it if we see it anywhere:

Here are some other highlights from the conference:
-it is important to start working with farmers from their home, rather than just looking at issues in their farm/garden so you can understand what they want and plan for their farm.

-some common plants have some pesticidal properties that I didn't know about, including spider flower.

-some legumes, like pigeon peas can make phosphorus available and soluble in the soil.

-we need to realize if when we introduce a new system of farming into an area instead of incorporating something new into what is already there, it can be risky and scary to people because we're destroying the existing system that they're used to.

-a good point that we should decide whether to work in a community based more on its openness for change than by the needs.

-and a reminder that we need to keep worldview in mind when we consider other peoples' behavior: we tend to judge others by their behavior (or the consequences of their behavior) through our own worldview yet we want others to judge us by our intentions ("what I really meant was...") instead of through their worldview (which is how people will judge our behavior).

Nothing to do with the conference, but here's a beautiful sunset in Arusha:

So, I don't have any pictures of me leading devotions during the conference, but that went really well.  One day it was about Luke 4:16-21, how our work as Christians in proclaiming the gospel is both to meet physical needs, but also to use our words to address spiritual needs.  It is easy for the church to forget about the importance of meeting physical needs and it is easy for Christian development workers to forget about the importance of meeting spiritual needs.

The other day it was about 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, how we often take the values of the world (power, money, education, etc.) and bring them into the church or our development.  But God doesn't value those things and uses weak, poor, insignificant people like us to do his work in the world!

Afterward, I had people come and tell me how much they were encouraged through those devotions and different ways that they want to apply them to their work or lives.  I am very thankful that God was able to use me to impact other peoples' lives in such a way.

Here are a couple more pictures taken by Kerry Wiens, to let you see the set up for praise and worship, devotions, and large-group sessions, and how many people were there:

Another day, I did a break-out session presentation about how principles about poverty alleviation can impact our agricultural development work.  I based a lot of it on "When Helping Hurts", "Two Ears of Corn", and "People in Rural Development", all great books!  Again, there were people who appreciated the information and felt like it will be helpful in their organization's work.  Eli kindly took some pictures for me:


  1. What a great opportunity for you Sara. It looks like there were a lot of attendees at the ECHO conference. Did you by any chance meet Jim Van Peursem? Jim works with World Vision in Arusha. As best I understand it, Jim helps to develop technology systems to help advance farming productivity in TZ. It's probably a long shot that you met, but I'm always surprised by how God connects far flung brothers and sisters. :)

    1. Hi Renee. There were a lot of people there! I didn't meet him, though I did sit next to someone from World Vision Tanzania one day. But he was a Tanzanian!

    2. Perhaps one day in the future Sara!

  2. Well done, Sara. Thankful you had the opportunity to share your knowledge. That weed is kind of frightening & bizarre!
    Appreciated your reflections on the conference especially about worldview/intentions/filters. Thinking on that. Praying. Carol