Nigerian diocese envisions thriving farm

Published February 1, 2005

The Jacaranda farm, in the diocese of Kaduna, requires an overhaul after years of neglect.

A self-sustaining farm that will provide jobs and promote understanding among Christians and Muslims, particularly youth, some of whom are caught in a web of violence. A farm, where chickens and pigs are raised, with orchards of oranges, passion fruit and mangoes. A farm named Jacaranda, which would provide space for meetings, education, conference, fellowship, and worship.

With these visions, Archbishop Josiah Idowu Fearon of the diocese of Kaduna, in the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria, visited Toronto’s St. Paul’s, Bloor Street, parish last December asking the congregation to help make a difference in the lives of rural Nigerians by participating in his diocese’s Jacaranda Farm Project.

The farm is already there – all 77 hectares, located an hour’s drive north of the city of Kaduna. Abandoned in 2001 by a Christian medical doctor who became a victim of a bloody clash between Christians and Muslims that led to the deaths of about 3,000 people in Kaduna, the farm was sold in 2003 to the diocese of Kaduna for 54 million naira (about $530,000 Cdn). The farm holds a lot of promise – it has a self-contained water table, two dams to reserve stream water, agricultural and aquacultural resources – but after years of neglect, it requires an overhaul.

” Kaduna is a flashpoint. We’ve had too many religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims,” said Archbishop Fearon in an interview. “I believe as a Christian leader that the church has a role to play in encouraging respect and peaceful co-existence with our neighbours. That will help us to reach out more to the Christian gospel.” As a start, the diocese has established a Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations.

Archbishop Fearon said the centre’s programs focus on youth because in “all our religious crises, every one of them, we’ve discovered that the ready army for the destructions are the youth – a good number of them are unemployed, secondly, they are uneducated, mainly Muslims.”

Reactions to the farm project have been mixed. “In the diocese itself, though the motion was overwhelmingly supported, there is still a significant number that are suspicious of the whole program – (they say) ‘these people have always killed us, destroyed our property. Muslims are not people you can reason with’ – I still (hear) that from the Anglican church,” he said.

But he believes that given time and resources, the program, which intends to bring Muslim and Christian youth together during school breaks, will produce the intended results.

The project “will have a massive effect on the spiritual and economic lives of the rural population,” St. Paul’s said in a Web site dedicated to the project.

Canon Barry Parker, rector of St. Paul’s, and his warden, Tim Davies, visited Kaduna in February 2004 to participate in the diocese’s 50th anniversary celebrations and to visit the farm.

Archbishop Fearon has urged St. Paul’s, in its capacity as commissary of the Kaduna diocese, to raise $400,000 towards developing the farm. A fundraiser was held at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College last December and St. Paul’s has also launched a Web site, to receive donations and to provide information on other ways of becoming involved in the project.

Editor’s Note: The eighth paragraph of this story has been corrected.


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