East Yorkshire's rusting farming machinery can make big difference in Burkina Faso
THEY toil with their bare hands, using sticks to break up the sun-baked earth so they can sow their crops.
It is painstaking work but farm machinery is scarce in Burkina Faso, one of Africa's poorest nations.
Charity leaders from Beverley are now asking East Yorkshire farmers to help, by donating disused farming machinery going to rust in their fields.
The Reverend John Beynon, of the Jacob's Well charity, recently returned from a mercy mission to the impoverished West African country, where he saw the people labouring to farm the hard land by hand.
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He says: "They don't have spades so they just prod at the ground with sticks to plant seeds.
"If you can plough the soil, that's so much better because you get better crops and the soil becomes better quality, so, hopefully, the yields increase and you can farm more land."
Jacob's Well supports the ABC School on the edge of Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, and wants to help the school farm the adjoining land to feed its 300 pupils.
Mr Beynon says: "The school feeds the children because it's so poor and the people are living at subsistence level.
"When you see the children, they are so thin and so small. Five-year-olds are about the size of our two-year-olds because they don't have the nutrition they need.
"It's difficult for the school to afford to feed them but if they can grow their own food it enables the children to have a meal."
Jacob's Well has shipped out a Massey Ferguson 135 tractor donated by an East Yorkshire farmer and is now appealing for other basic farm equipment.
Mr Beynon said: "The school in Burkina Faso has a big piece of land but they don't have equipment, such as harrows and rollers, so they can't farm it all. I'm sure loads of East Yorkshire farmers have got old equipment like this just standing rotting in their fields when it could be put to good use in Africa."
The African farmers are growing subsistence crops including maize, millet and sorghum.
Insufficient water and poor soil are a problem in the landlocked country but Dr Beynon says rainfall has been good over the past growing season.
He says: "The rainfall is unpredictable but, this year, the rains were good. What is missing is the equipment to enable them to farm the land. It would change the lives of these people.
"It would also mean when the land is not in use, they could flatten it to make it into a sports field for the children to play on.
"They can only grow crops in the rainy season, from April to August, the rest of the time they don't do anything with the land."
Jacob's Well recently delivered sports equipment and kits donated by East Yorkshire clubs, including Hull City, for the 300-pupil ABC School.
Mr Beynon says: "The field is too rough to play sport on but, if they had a roller, they could flatten it after the crops have been harvested so they could get full use of the land throughout the year."
As well as agricultural machinery, Jacob's Well is also appealing for engineering equipment for a new technical college being developed at the ABC School.
Mr Beynon says: "With the new technical college, they are hoping to give apprenticeships to young men to give them a good career prospect.
"We are planning to teach them metal and wood work, general engineering skills, car and bike mechanics.
"To help with this, we are trying to collect all sorts of equipment, such as socket sets, hammers and chisels.
"We also hope to be able to teach some young men building skills, such as brick laying, plastering and carpentry."
The charity is hoping to ship out equipment in the coming weeks and would like to hear from anyone who could donate farming or other equipment.
Jacob's Well would also like to hear from anyone interested in lending their expertise, including arts teachers, welders, joiners, doctors, nurses and dentists, on future aid trips.
Visit www.thejacobswell.org for more information about the Ladygate-based charity or call 01482 881162.