A Letter from Dan and Elizabeth Turk, serving in Madagascar
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We returned to Madagascar in August from the US, where we attended Robert’s graduation from Westminster College and a PC(USA) sharing conference, and I (Dan) took the 5-week Tropical Fruit Production and Research course at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Extension Center (TREC) in Homestead, Florida. Taking this course is something that I had wanted to do for many years, so I am very grateful to have had the opportunity. I learned a lot about growing mangos, mamey sapotes, avocados, guavas, papayas, and other tropical fruits and am eager to apply what I learned to help improve fruit growing in Madagascar. Growing tropical fruits has tremendous potential for helping Malagasy farmers get out of poverty. About 90% of Madagascar’s farmers live in extreme poverty.
While in Homestead, I purchased fruit trees to bring back to Madagascar. My colleagues got the needed import permit from Madagascar, and ECHO Global Farm in North Fort Myers, Florida, once again helped with getting the required phytosanitary certificate from the US Department of Agriculture. One of the requirements when importing plants into Madagascar is that upon arrival they must stay in a quarantine greenhouse for 2–3 months. Most of the trees are doing very well in quarantine, considering they spent over 48 hours without soil or light while in transit. We expect that the trees will be released from quarantine in late October or November.
Among the fruit trees that I am most pleased to get are many exciting mango varieties from around the world, including varieties from Haiti, Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Thailand, and the US. We also brought back some good varieties of loquats, sapodillas, and Spondias purpurea. Species likely introduced to Madagascar for the first time include several jaboticabas and related species, as well as the red-fleshed durian. We also brought back about 160 germinating mamey sapote seeds for use as rootstocks. They should allow us to get at least 50 grafted trees to farmers to evaluate the commercial potential of that crop.
Right now, my colleagues and I are in the middle of a rush to landscape around the new 4-story, 50 meters-long building that is being constructed on the grounds of Ivato seminary as part of the FJKM’s year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary as a church denomination and the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries from the London Missionary Society. The building is to be inaugurated October 20. We will be putting in sixteen 2.3-meter diameter tree planters made with beautiful orange vatonakoho stones from Mantasoa, Madagascar. Ten of these will be around existing grafted fruit trees near the building. Four will have native trees — two native palms (Dypsis leptocheilos and Beccariophoenix alfredii), a beautiful orange-flowered tree (Chadsia flammea) and a beautiful red-flowered tree (Symphonia species). The other two will be special fruit trees, an “Oro” canistel and an “Alano” sapodilla.
Next to the building, we are transforming the area where our old project nursery was into a Creation Garden complete with a shade structure, planted native trees and shrubs, and a few fruit trees. The garden is designed to serve as a reminder of the richness of Madagascar’s biodiversity and the need for action to preserve native forests. The Creation Garden is being donated by the Madagascar Mission Network in commemoration of the FJKM’s 50-year anniversary. Fifteen species of endemic palms will be planted around the garden as well as along the entranceway to the 50th anniversary building. Hopefully it will all look beautiful, provide educational opportunities for students and visitors, and be finished in time.
The FJKM Fruit Tree Center in Mahatsinjo continues to develop and expand. Back in February, we had a gravity-fed water system installed, so now the center has running water for the main building, the nursery, and the orchard. A spigot was also installed in the village of Ambararata right below the center. While I was gone, two students did internships at the fruit center — one studying mango propagation, the other irrigation. In the next year or so, we hope to be able to construct a new building to house students.
While I was in the US, my colleagues Rolland Razafiarison and Germain Andrianaivoson took students from the Ivato, Fianarantsoa, and Mandritsara seminaries on field trips to the protected areas of Andasibe, Ranomafana, and Marotandrano, respectively. The field trips are important to help students see firsthand the richness of Madagascar’s biodiversity and to understand the danger of mass extinction in coming years if no changes are made. For many students, it was the first time seeing lemurs in the wild. I hope to go with students to Marotandrano in 2019.
While at Mandritsara, Rolland and Germain coordinated with technicians to get the Mandritsara seminary’s water system repaired. It had been several years since the seminary last had running water. Rolland and Germain also took some of our colleagues from the Ivato nursery and Mahatsinjo Fruit Center on a field trip to see the tangerine orchards of Antanetibe Ankazobe, where we helped 70 families plant tangerines starting in 2010. Farmers in that village are now making good money from selling tangerines. We will plant an orchard of about 50 tangerines at the fruit center in November or December using funds from First Presbyterian Church in Asheville.
Until the inauguration of the new 50th anniversary building is finished on 20 October, my colleagues and I will be coordinating the many components of the landscaping around the building. We should get in two quick trips to Mahatsinjo, the first to deliver metal windows and a solar system to improve the security situation and the second to take visitors from Orlando who are coming for the inauguration. Before the end of the year, we will likely get in a trip to Fianarantsoa to teach at the seminary; plant muscadines on synod land in Ambalavao; drop off a dozen endemic palms for the new FJKM amphitheater at Ambositra; check in with Pastor Rota’s reforestation nursery at Besoa, located southwest of Ambalavao; and continue with plans to set up a new mango nursery at Ankaramena, which is about 45 km southwest of Ambalavao, a little past the turnoff to Besoa.
We are grateful to all of you who help make the work we do in partnership with the FJKM church possible. Continued support, through prayer and financial assistance, is greatly appreciated.
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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