Tractors for ZimbabwePublished 10:49am Thursday, July 26, 2012 Updated 11:12am Thursday, July 26, 2012
Don and Maryjane Westra sold most of their possessions, left their lives in Fergus Falls behind in 2009, and flew to Zimbabwe to work as missionaries through Global Ministries.
Three years later, they are back in the U.S. but not for long. They are already signed up to go back to Mt. Selinda Mission in Zimbabwe for four more years, but this time they are bringing help in the form of steel and horsepower.
The idea came about over a cup of coffee. Don, Rud Wasson and Wayne Miller of the Fergus Falls Sunrise Rotary Club began to bounce around the idea of gathering old farm equipment from local farmers to help Zimbabwean communities establish lasting farm fields.
Don spent much of the three-year mission helping local people clear land so it could be used for farming. The potential farmland is covered in shoulder-high grass and vegetation. They managed to get 25 acres cleared the first year and 50 acres the second. Much of the work was done with one small, old tractor.
Now that they’re back in the U.S., the Westras have been gathering donated farm equipment.
“We’ve gotten plows, corn planters, cultivators and all kinds of stuff from area farmers,” Don said.
Titan Machinery in Fergus Falls donated two tractors. The equipment will be shipped to Zimbabwe in two 40-foot shipping containers. They will be packed up in October and arrive at Mt. Selinda in December, where the equipment will be distributed to areas in need. The cost of shipping, seeds and fertilizer reached $110,000, which was funded by individual donations and Rotary Clubs.
“We’re doing this whole thing in the name of food security,” Don said. “There’s a lot of foreign aid, but there are still people who starve to death every year. There’s just plain not enough to eat.”
The goal is to have enough food in the area to feed everyone and make it affordable, he said.
“We have improved their diets substantially,” said Don. “We now have pigs and broiler chickens to add some protein to their diets.”
The Zimbabweans were very welcoming and receptive to the Westras. Now a Third World country, Zimbabwe was once one of the most prosperous African countries. People are generally very welcoming to anyone who can help bring some of their good times back, Don said.
“Our mission work is done on a grass-roots level,” he said. “It’s more a matter of helping people survive. When we went to the agency, they said, we don’t need preachers, we need engineers and people to help put the infrastructure back together.”
The Westras have decided to go back for another four years because they liked the lifestyle in Zimbabwe, they said.
“The speed of life there is about half of what it is here,” Don said. “People are incredibly friendly, and it’s just a great place to live. It’s like a quieter version of Fergus Falls.”