Sowers of HOPE: Redesigning a Curriculum at the Intersection of Farming and Faith
Sowers of HOPE is an agriculture program equipping churches with theological and technical resources so that Christian farmers will be catalysts for Nutritional, Economic, Environmental, and Spiritual growth in their communities.” As of 2022, there were 8,800 Sowers of HOPE members and 480 participating churches in Rwanda.
Due to the great success of this learning program in Rwanda, HOPE International decided to expand into other countries. To do this, they needed a more ‘polished’ version of this important learning program. As well, they wanted to ensure a standard of excellence that they believed a learning-centered approach can offer.
In short, it was time to take a larger step back to strengthen and codify the program through a collaboration with Global Learning Partners (GLP).
The first phase of this important work with GLP was to evaluate Sowers of HOPE in its current state. What was working, and why? What was not working well, and why? What was missing and would strengthen the program, if created?
The GLP ask-study-observe approach offered both cross-cutting recommendations and more granular recommendations through the lens of several models that are critical to ensure a learning-centered approach.
Sowers of HOPE is a 7-to-9-month learning program that uses a cascade model. Farmers are elected by their community to be Commissioned Sowers. They go through the program and are then supported to teach it in their communities. To help all stakeholders understand the vision and be able to step into it, we supported HOPE International to create three learning journeys, each tailored to a unique audience. See below the high-level view of all phases for Church Partners and Commissioned Sowers.
Based on the findings and recommendations, the following is a sample of key areas we strengthened in the curriculum:
- Lengthened the lesson time and ensured the use of open questions to allow more space for dialogue and making meaning together
- Embedded the 4A learning sequence in the lesson template and applied that template to all 21 unit lessons
- Re-designed the template to ensure readability for farmers with low literacy
- Expanded the Sowers’ Handbook to include key content for each lesson and make it accessible to all farmers, i.e., maximize readability and offer it to all farmers, not just Commissioned Sowers.
FACILITATION TRAINING + GUIDE
This work included designing and/or strengthening 12 lessons to teach Commissioned Sowers key facilitation skills and prepare them to take ownership of the program.
We also developed a Facilitator Guide that offers a wide range of tips, tools, and templates as well as an overview of the learning program. The Commissioned Sowers trainings intentionally take facilitators into the Facilitator Guide to ensure it becomes a helpful tool in their work and planning.
These new skills and tools will help maximize the potential for impact in the Commissioned Sowers’ communities. Creating these was a significant value-add to this already vibrant learning program.
The following impact is expected as a result of this deep revisioning and reworking of this important learning program:
- Christian farmers recognize their work as an act of worship when they step onto their fields with hoe in hand as a pastor stepping into the pulpit. There will be transformation of soils, of hearts, and of communities.
- Churches across the globe are equipped with theological and technical resources so that Christian farmers become catalysts for nutritional, economic, environmental, and spiritual growth in their communities.
- The Commissioned Sowers establish thriving AgriFaith Associations that learn, work, worship, and serve together as a ministry of the Church.
Past testimonials speak to the amazing impact Sowers of HOPE has already had – considering the careful revision work now completed, there is much hope for even greater things to come!