Mercy Ships has long been committed to strengthening health systems and providing direct medical services through surgical intervention onboard our hospital ships. But did you know Mercy Ships is also dedicated to whole-person care? Since 1997, Mercy Ships has provided education to help participants rebuild, restore, and renew their land and communities through organic agriculture development. Today, we call this life-changing training program “Food for Life.”
“Food for Life” Transforms Communities
The program provides in-depth agricultural training, with focuses on nutrition and business entrepreneurship. As course participants discover which crops to plant and best tending practices, they also learn how to produce, process, market, and sell their crops.
The result? A sustainable approach to agriculture that has the potential to transform individuals as well as communities. Since 2007, Mercy Ships has led “Food for Life” courses in 9 African countries, training more than 800 participants.
The impact of the course doesn’t end with its participants. By the end of the program, participants have also learned how to train others with their new skills and business acumen. “Food for Life” graduates are given the resources and tools to go back into their communities and create a ripple effect of transformation as they share their knowledge with other aspiring farmers. This “train-the-trainer” approach is key to our sustainable health systems strengthening model.
In 2021, we will provide another “Food for Life” training program in Senegal and Benin, where we are partnering with Phaz Compassion to renovate a regional “Food for Life” campus.
Meet Birima, a “Food for Life” Student in Senegal
For program participants like Birima, a “Food for Life” student in Senegal, the opportunity to learn about organic agriculture has been transformational on every level.
The program was Birima’s solution to years of searching. He had looked far and wide for a successful job, even traveling from his home country in his pursuit. When he heard of an opportunity to participate in the “Food for Life” training program in late 2019, he decided to join.
Throughout the 22-week course, Birima — along with a group of more than 30 fellow students — developed a foundation in the world of agriculture, including agroecology, nutrition, and food processing.
“Having this knowledge allows me to be independent and take care of my own food supply,” says Birima.
The course has empowered him to begin his own food production business. He started his venture with the equivalent of $40 — and it has already blossomed into a thriving, sustainable business. Currently, Birima’s business produces moringa, a leaf-based powder that’s rich in heart-healthy antioxidants. He is also working on setting up a unit to process other local products, like fresh bissap and baobab juices.
The “Food for Life” program is only one example of the life-changing work that occurs thanks to the compassionate giving of our partners and the tireless work of our volunteers. And with the highly anticipated first field service of our new ship, the Global Mercy™, coming soon, even more families will have the opportunity to find hope for better futures.
The need is great but hope and mercy are greater!