I have to admit that I am a bit of a city boy, and while very familiar with coffee and local cafes, I have a fairly limited knowledge of agriculture. In November last year, I had the privilege of taking a team to Vanuatu to visit one of our partners called Nasi Tuan. The people of Tanna Island, known for its active Mount Yusar volcano and for being in one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, have been through a lot. We were there to see the work Nasi Tuan is doing with local Ni-Van smallholder farmers, helping them to grow coffee, vanilla and other crops as part of a long term social enterprise project.

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The ash emissions from the active Yasur volcano (in the background), create nutrient-rich soils ideal for coffee growing conditions.

It came as a huge relief to hear that Tanna Island was spared the devastation of Cyclone Harold that recently hit the northern Vanuatu islands of Pentecost and Espiritu Santo. The people of Tanna have worked so hard to recover after Cyclone Pam devastated the island in 2015. Adding to the impact of Covid-19 onto their fragile economy and very limited healthcare system would be yet another setback and potentially fatal blow for the community.
 
Planting the trees and crops ahead of time takes a great deal of faith and commitment from local farmers, as they put their trust in coffee and vanilla production as a new form of income generation that is very different from their traditional cropping. It takes courage to invest in new ways of doing things in the hope of better returns and a more resilient future.
 
One memory that stood out, was when we visited a smallholder farmer called Pusin and his family. What we witnessed was an established and thriving farm that was producing high yields of coffee. There was plenty of shade from established trees planted three years earlier, the coffee plants and mixed crops were thriving in a lush environment. He then led us down a path to the end of this cropping area, and in stark contrast, showed us a dry barren space that was desolate. This was what the farm was like three years ago, he said. Through hard work, sweat and passion, Pusin and his family (with the support of Nasi Tuan) have transformed this land into a thriving productive farm. The farm is having a huge impact on his family, and the wider community, by employing workers.

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Pusin and his family, holding coffee and chocolate made in New Zealand using coffee beans from Tanna Island.


It also takes great faith and commitment from local NZ churches to support the work of Nasi Tuan. I brought with me a lingering question about the role of the Church in supporting aid and development work. How can Jesus be made known through agriculture? What I discovered was inspiring. It starts with Jeffery Lahva, director of Nasi Tuan, and his team, a group of passionate and respected leaders. They fully live out their Christian faith in the work they do. Work begins with daily devotions, and staff are all encouraged to be part of local church communities. Nasi Tuan actively lives out its Christian values in a very practical way to all the 500 plus farmers with whom the staff interact with every week.

Tims-Blog-1.jpgJeffery (far left), some of the Nasi Tuan staff and myself (far right) with a vanilla plantation in the background.


For someone new to Social Enterprise projects, Nasi Tuan was a great introduction.
Drinking coffee from the beans produced by Nasi Tuan has a whole new level of meaning. They tell a rich and full story of a beautiful community being transformed through the holistic care and practical support of Nasi Tuan. The ultimate fruit of this labour is seeing the evidence of people flourishing both physically and spiritually, that leaves both great memories and a wonderful taste behind.
 
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”



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Tim Brown is Tearfund’s
South Island Church Relationship Manager 



 

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