Image: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Katelin van Zyl

On Monday 17 July, Russia did not renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative implemented in July 2022. The deal – which expired on 18 July – allowed Ukraine to continue exporting grain from its Black Sea ports, after the Russian navy blockade triggered soaring food prices and widespread shortages in mostly Middle Eastern and African countries. The deal dropped world food prices by approximately 20% and allowed 57% of the 33 million tonnes of grain exported that year to reach developing countries. Ukraine supplied the World Food Programme with 80% of its grain, which was delivered as humanitarian aid to Yemen, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. Since the expiry of the grain deal, wheat prices have increased again. Kenya’s government considers Russia’s withdrawal from the deal as betrayal of those in drought-affected countries, such as those in the Horn of Africa, which are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. An estimated 50 million people are currently in need of food aid in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya due to years of failed rains. 

While the UN has condemned Russia, warning that millions of the world’s poorest will “pay the price”, Russia accuses the West of not upholding its side of the deal, saying it would renew the agreement if its conditions were met. Russia’s withdrawal followed a few hours after Ukraine’s navy and SBU security service carried out a drone strike on the only bridge connecting Russia’s mainland to the Crimean Peninsula (Kerch Bridge), which is a critical supply line for the Russian army. However, Moscow does not cite this attack as the reason for its withdrawal, but rather the usage of the deal to “serve the narrow self-interests” of Ukraine and its Western allies while limiting the full dispatch of Russia’s grain and fertiliser exports. In preventing Russian exports, Russian Ambassador to Kenya, Dmitry Maksimychev, has argued that the West is responsible for weaponising food.

Russia is holding a Russia-Africa summit this week, which comes at a critical time in the mutually beneficial relationships between Russia and many African countries. Russia has repeatedly promised free grain to low-income countries after the deal’s termination and has said it is able to replace Ukrainian grain. Russia also provides important military support to some African countries, especially through the Wagner military group, which is said to be continuing its work in Africa. However, if African countries are unhappy after the summit, they may start to distance themselves from Russia. The global Church can pray for the leaders of Africa, as well as other decision-makers in Russia, Ukraine and the West, to be humble and wise in their geopolitical relations, in a way that will benefit their people. For those professing to be Christians, the Church can pray that their decision-making and behaviour will honour God.

Many argue that Africa has the potential to feed the continent and should be able to farm its own wheat and other staple crops, yet it remains reliant on imported grain. Of course, Africa faces many challenges, such as climate change, volatility, corruption, poor governance, exploitation and limited access to fertilisers and food processing. In Nigeria, for example, where farmers have been trying to move away from dependence on imported wheat, high temperatures and unpredictable rain patterns, along with violence between gangs, farmers, and cattle herders, hinder Nigeria’s ability to meet the demand. Since many regions in Africa are not conducive to wheat and maize farming, it is suggested that foreign cereals could be replaced with regional crops such as fonio, teff, sorghum, amaranth, and millet, which are underutilised and can provide a healthier diet. Greater internal trading of these crops could also create more jobs and income. Even if a handful of African countries can increase their agricultural supply to other African countries, especially essential grains and staple crops, it can be greatly beneficial for the entire continent.

Justin Long recently released a report presenting statistics pertaining to global Christianity. Christianity is currently the most prominent belief system in Africa and is predicted to remain the most prevalent in 2050. Africans will also make up a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. Christianity that puts Biblical truth into practice should also translate into societal, political, and economic development. In this context, we are reminded of the missional opportunities that lie within agriculture. ‘Farming God’s Way’ is an equipping tool that seeks to transform Africa into the “breadbasket of the world” using a godly and empowering model of farming. It encourages us to see that by following God’s ways, solutions to the food insecurity and poverty crisis in Africa can be revealed. Initially developed on a large-scale commercial farm in Zimbabwe, the practices combining biblical keys, management keys and technology have since been applied by farmers, NGO’s, churches, and missionaries throughout Africa and in other parts of the world.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For wisdom and humility among world leaders, acting in the best interests of the people God has given them responsibility over
  • For God to raise up African agricultural leaders, and for solutions to be found to meet the food needs of people in developing countries, especially through local and regional solutions
  • That Christianity will lead to other forms of development in Africa, and that ‘Farming God’s Way’ will bring forth great physical as well as spiritual yields

To learn more about ‘Farming God’s Way’, see https://www.farming-gods-way.org/