Muslim leaders draw up an action plan to counter crisis in African farming
Farming may seem to be an activity that is the same the world over: it can be done well or badly, but its practice doesn't have much to do with religious beliefs. But that view is to ignore an important truth: that to many, their faith guides everything they do. Many believe that their duty is to act as guardians of a sacred creation: but how to do this?
In 2012, as the nature of the farming crisis affecting Africa became clear, Muslim leaders asked the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to help prepare an action plan to meet the region's future farming needs.
Practical benefit: Islamic Farming workshop demonstrates how mulching helps prevent water run-off and maximises the benefits of irrigation Picture: Islamic Farming
They recognised that agriculture is in crisis throughout Africa. Soil erosion is rising and crop yields are falling. Erratic rains due partly to climate change have left affected farmers in despair. Meanwhile Africa’s population is expected to more than double to 2.3 billion by 2050. New farming methods are needed to increase productivity, nutrition and livelihoods, while also conserving the land for future generations.
‘As Muslims we are stewards appointed by Allah to be guardians of the world He created. It is our duty to safeguard this blessing, not to exploit it' – Dr Husna Ahmad
ARC commissioned Global One, a Muslim-led development organisation, to work with Islamic clerics and scholars as well as agriculture experts to develop this new approach. Given that subsistence farmers account for about 85 per cent of Africa’s population, and Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s unused arable land, the need was clear.
The result was a new manual: Islamic Farming: A Toolkit for Conservation Agriculture. It was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2014, along with plans for 10 demonstration and training Islamic farms in Kenya.
Islamic Farming is a faith-based approach to agriculture that integrates Qur’anic teachings about caring for the Earth as a religious responsibility – khalifa – with practical teaching in sustainable farming techniques, specifically in conservation agriculture.
Using a proven method for climate-smart agriculture
Conservation agriculture is a proven methodology that can increase crop yields while also protecting soil health and biodiversity. It is promoted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and other groups as a form of climate-smart agriculture.
The Islamic Farming manual is unique in that it speaks to Muslim farmers in the language of the Qur’an and Sunnah, says the manual’s chief editor, Dr Husna Ahmad: 'As Muslims we are stewards appointed by Allah to be guardians of the world He created. It is our duty to safeguard this blessing, not to exploit it.'
Like conservation agriculture, Islamic Farming observes a set of principles.
Islamic Farming principles
Minimum soil disturbance – that is, little or no tillage. Dig planting holes instead.
Apply mulch to reduce soil erosion and minimise water evaporation.
Do not burn – crop residues are used for mulching.
Rotate crops and plant with diversity. Change crops every year to avoid pests and allow soil to recover.
Remove all weeds regularly.
Increase soil fertility through adding compost.
Prepare early, complete activities on time, and maintain a high standard of work.