Jesus often used agricultural metaphors in his parables. Jesus cares that we are well fed by his Word as well as nutrition. His miracles included feeding thousands with bread and fish. In our health and evangelism efforts, providing a means for people to feed themselves with healthy and easily grown plants has been a long-term interest. Fourteen months ago we planted five cuttings of Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa), which were mailed from ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) in North Fort Myers, Florida. Two of the cuttings took, and this last week we potted 32 cuttings from our original Chaya plant. These will be for distribution to our Bethel Health Builders in churches in all our areas of operation. We are also making videos in English and Zulu on the propagation, preparation, and uses of Chaya.
Chaya, also called Mayan Spinach or Tree Spinach, grows to about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It has been used since ancient times by the Mayan people of the Yucatan Peninsula, and remains a major green used in cooking there today. This pest, disease, and drought-resistant perennial shrub is easy to grow and will produce food for years. As we promote this highly nutritious plant among our mission partners, we will need to teach people how to grow and use it. For this reason, we are making a video as well as collaborating with a Zulu pastor who is an agricultural student for work amongst the Zulu people.
Fresh, healthy greens are often lacking in the diets of poor people, especially those who do not have land or lack basic knowledge in nutrition and gardening skills. Nutritionally, chaya is about twice as excellent as spinach (see table)! Here in Southern Africa, people with HIV/AIDS, heart & artery disease, diabetes and malnutrition could all benefit from this easy to grow plant. Increased self-reliance for both local church missions and those people who adopt this plant could be dually achieved through this initiative.
Please pray with us that the following goals could be reached by one year from now:
· Chaya plants are safely established will all our mission partners in both rural and urban settings. GPS coordinates of all plants will be recorded and success of our out-planting will be monitored.
· English and Zulu language videos will be completed, which communicate the knowledge and techniques needed to safely enjoy and promote this life-sustaining Spinach Tree. Video will motivate people to grow and use this plant.
· Zulu orphan children and caregivers will gain exposure to chaya use and cultivation, and we will establish plantings with at least ten percent of the households we become involved with.
· Our mission partners and Bethel Health Builders will be able to promote this nutritional plant as part of their feeding ministries.