Program helps local churches develop villages

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When Chris Enns created a farming development plan in Tanzania, Africa, he expected 20 to 30 farmers to emerge. Instead, he was faced with 200.

Enns left Calgary in 2009 to work for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee as a program consultant, which has landed him in a partnership with different districts in Tanzania. His role is to offer technical support while creating development plans on how to help local churches reach out to their local community.

“The problem is that Tanzania relies too much on outside help,” said Enns. “We go in there and help farmers learn proper agriculture while teaching them about land ownership rights.”

Tanzania has had significant problems with local farmers and land ownership. Many farmers do not own the land they cultivate, and because of that, they face problems with the government coming in and taking the land away, Enns added.


Enns first travelled to Tanzania in January 2010 to teach villagers a program that would enlighten them on their rights and how to properly cultivate the land and raise their own income.

“It was a security plan [that] would improve food security, promote land rights, and teach proper agriculture,” Enns said.

Enns and the other members of the committee launched the program in villages around Tanzania. However, there were more farmers that arrived than they had space for.

“This happened at every village we arrived at. We found out that only around two per cent of the farmers actually owned the land they were farming on.”

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Chris Enns (right) has started and run a farming development program in the African country of Tanzania, as part of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, that teaches local farmers to take charge of their land and generate sustainable income for themselves.

Photo courtesy of: Chris and Heather EnnsIt was difficult, but Enns and the other members could only accept 30 farmers into the program. The other farmers had to return back to their homes, where they would continue to fight for their land rights.

“The program has seen a lot of success. As we travel, we see a lot of other regions that want help as well,” Enns said.

The committee generally teams up with two or three dioceses ⎯ a district under the supervision of a bishop ⎯ to train and equip them on community development.

“We chose to use local partnerships with the dioceses because local partnerships are better than outside partnerships,” said Enns. “They need an insider’s perspective, which is different than our own.”

The committee also helps by training people in the local churches on financial savings, raising income, and self-reliance.

Education for the future

Enns said he believes it is much more efficient to help Tanzanians learn how to rely on themselves, rather than on help from around the world.

“When we enter these partnerships, the local churches learn to operate on their own. This is better because when we leave, they can continue to grow and succeed on their own.”

Enns and his wife Heather have two children ⎯ Ryan, 8, and Jeremy, 5 ⎯ who sometimes travel with the committee, but live with Enns in Tanzania.

Helping villagers become self-reliant is one of the most important tasks the committee works to accomplish, and Heather blogs regularly on the importance of this self-reliance.

“In Swahili, there’s a word, ‘kujitegemea,’ which means to rely on oneself. Some Tanzanians are aware of how their country’s reliance on foreign aid, and the work of missionaries, has hindered them from learning self-reliance,” she writes on her blog.

Because of outside help through foreign aid, African countries have become too reliant on these resources, according to Heather. This is why it is important to the committee to teach Tanzanians how to “rely on their own skills and resources,” she added in the same entry.


Heather and Chris Enns (seventh and eighth from left, respectively) have formed solid bonds with several dioceses, or communities, in Tanzania as part of their humanitarian efforts in the African region.

Photo courtesy of: Chris and Heather EnnsLiving in Tanzania has been a different experience for Chris and his family because of the cultural differences between Canada and Tanzania.

“Travelling into different cultures, you have to interpret the different cultures,” he said. “You have to figure out why things are the way they are. It takes humility to accept the different viewpoints.”

The committee works hard to understand the different ways of living in Tanzania.

“It’s traditional for North Americans to go into developing countries with a North American idea, which is why it’s so important to get into the cultures and experience them,” said Chris.

Setting an example

David Fisher, Enns’ father-in-law in Calgary, travelled to Tanzania with his wife and daughter last year. Fisher and the rest of his family saw the different community development plans the committee created, which included helping widows gain financial stability.

“The development plans help these women who are in need of some sort of income,” Fisher said.

One way the committee helps the widows is by teaching all members of a church about agricultural development. That way, the community can help one another instead of relying on outside help.

For Fisher, the trip was transformational.

“It was a great experience. We definitely saw the difference in people’s lives when we went down there,” Fisher said.

The committee also reaches out to teach people how to live life “the way God intended it,” Chris Enns said.

One challenge to overcome is the different religious perspectives in Tanzania. According to Enns, many of the pastors have little to no training, and have very little knowledge about the Bible, or how to live Christ-centered lives.

The committee works on training pastors, as well as standing against other religious belief systems, including witchcraft and fatalism, the belief that everything in life adds up to fate.

“We go into these villages and teach them how to be God’s hands and feet,” Enns said.

As well, the committee works with the churches to reach out to orphans, widows, people with HIV/AIDS and farmers who are trying to make an income off their land.

“By using strong leadership, we focus on transforming the whole community to reach out and help one another. We are a self-help committee,” Enns said.

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