Monks are to pioneer ambitious projects to increase environmental care in the developing world whilst at the same time tacking poverty and improving farming production.
The environmental projects are being rolled out by Benedictines in West Africa in association with the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC) .
Last month heads of Benedictine monasteries from West African states including Senegal, Togo, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Benin met with Paola Triolo, ARC's project manager for the country to discuss how to develop awareness of protecting their environment.
'The agreements and discussions opened the door to many exciting future environmental projects in the region,' Ms Triolo stated.
The project is an extension of work the organisation began based around an Eco handbook ARC produced in association with Benedictine Sisters in Lake Erie, Canada, to be used in South American communities.
It is hoped once the handbook has been adapted it will make many of the ideas and techniques more accessible to the remote monastic communities.
Benedictine rule is based on the maxim 'Work is prayer and prayer is work'. Therefore most of the communities are self-sustaining, and have an inevitable impact on their environment.
The aim is to set up a model project at Katibunga Monastery in Zambia, which will promote organic farming, land management, forestry and ultimately improving the health and education of over 2,000 families in the area.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has already opened its first organic farming programme. Last year workshops were held in the town of Assela, to introduce a new farming training programme to a mixture of farmers, clergy and community leaders.
Emphasising positive bio-farming techniques, the participants learned how, through applying principles of positive environmental management, they could improve production of vegetables, dairy products and honey, while protecting the land.
Techniques included solar energy for household use, soil and water conservation, organic pest management.
Encouraged by positive feedback, Church and government are now working together to roll the project out over the whole country over the next 5 years.
It is hoped by farmers introducing these techniques into own farming regime they will be able to share knowledge with at least 10 other farmers in their home area, while other workshops take place over the country.
The Ethiopian Church points to the example of the Bible, saints, hermits and monastic life that has played a huge part in conservation in the church's past and sees the role of the Church, in caring for the environment, as an essential aspect of its mission and duty.
Fran Race is a reporter for Ekklesia and a member of All Hallows Anglican church in Leeds. She can be contacted: '+'Fran.Race@ekklesia.co.uk' + ' '; // -->