During a crisis, the need is unmistakable and the urgency is obvious—the time to act is now. An ambulance doesn’t need much promotion when there’s a body at the bottom of a cliff.

When a crisis hits it’s easy for our giving to feel substantial, to feel it’s making a measurable difference. However, it’s when our giving feels less effective, that it is often doing its best work. An ambulance on the ground is unquestionably essential, but it’s not nearly as powerful or effective as a fence at the top of the cliff.

On the island of Tanna, Vanuatu, if the cliff is financial instability, lack of education and poverty, then Tearfund’s partner, Nasi Tuan, is that cliff-top fence. Even better, it’s one the people have built themselves.

As one of Vanuatu’s 83 islands, Tanna has a population of approximately 32,500, a very active volcano called Mt Yasur, and consequentially, nutrient-rich ashy soil built for farming. So that’s exactly what the people of Tanna did, with over 80% of them working as subsistence farmers.


body1-(2).jpgWoman from the Vanuatu island, Tanna. 

Yet despite their impressive work ethic and the land’s natural fertility, Tanna is also a region of poverty and hardship. This fragility was only worsened in 2015 when Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific. Here’s where Nasi Tuan comes in. Nasi Tuan was started in 2009 by Jeffrey Lahva and a group of local, like-minded Christians. It was while Lahva was working in the agricultural sector for the government that he saw a flaw in the ambulance approach to aid in Vanuatu.

Lahva had seen many mission trips pass through from New Zealand and Australia; groups of church youths eager to do some good. Yet despite the best of intentions, the groups would come, assist, and inevitably return home, while communities waited for the next trip to pass through.

Lahva also knew first-hand the tenacity, work ethic and passion of his people. The issue was not their willingness to work hard or their desire for a better life, but obstacles out of their control; freak weather patterns, limited business education, and a lack of access to international markets.

These people weren’t just tending a relaxed veggie patch in their backyard. The UN predicts that 500 million smallholder farms just like the ones in Tanna, produce 80% of the developing world’s food. But due to their small size, this is often done in informal and inefficient ways. Farmers have no formal training, little business education, and limited tools and supplies or the scale to supply markets farming as individuals.

 

body3-(1).jpgChildren from the Vanuatu island, Tanna. 

Lahva’s solution? A self-sustaining agribusiness with farmers working together as a cooperative. That didn’t just help farmers, but directly involved them; providing these potential rural entrepreneurs with accredited training, resources, equipment and as farmer cooperatives the chance to effectively participate in large markets. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Lahva built on what the people of Tanna could already do; grow good produce.

Instead of pouring money and resources into quick fixes, Nasi Tuan invests in a sustainable model that will hopefully outgrow a need for funding. In essence? The picture of empowerment.

Nasi Tuan falls under Tearfund’s Farming and Enterprise cause, formerly “Empower”. This cause involves preventing poverty through building self-sufficiency, disaster resilience and opportunity. It’s about the sustainable, the preventative and the long-term. It’s the fence that enables small farming families to put food on the table, send their kids to school and create a better future for themselves.

body2-(2).jpgTearfund partners with Lahva in an empowering agribusiness programme called Nasi Tuan. 


It is empowering people to propel themselves out of hardship. It may not have the dramatic urgency or instantaneous results of giving in a crisis, but it’s important nonetheless. It’s helping to create a positive ripple effect for generations to come by creating sustainable incomes from agriculture. It is also reducing the damage created by cyclones and droughts through disaster risk reduction and creating lasting resilience among those who live on Tanna Island.

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