During the second Anglo Boer War (South African War) of 1899 – 1902 the British were struggling to defeat the Boers. The British adopted the scorched earth policy, burning down farms and forcibly removed woman and children to concentration camps. The conditions in the camps where dismal and a total of over 48 000 woman and children (22 000 children) died in the camps. A total of 20 000 black people died in the concentration camps.
In the concentration camp at Bethulie, also known as the Camp of Hell, a total of 1 734 woman and children died within the space of 13 months. The theme for the Bethulie concentration camp in the south of the Orange Free State was Matthew 10 :29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of you head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”
Anette Marais sat on a stump amongst tired and destitute woman and opened her bible to read to the woman. The previous night she begged God to send her scripture to inspire the woman. She opened the Bible and read Matt 10:29-31 to the woman. As she was reading a small sparrow flew over them and landed on Annette’s shoulder. Over the next months the sparrows became the beacon of hope for the woman and children at the Camp of Hell.
The story was told to a woman of influence, who relayed it to the Prime Minister, Jan Smuts. In 1923 the sparrow was embedded on the quarter penny, the smallest coin of the Union of South Africa. The sparrow was transferred to the 1 cent piece when South Africa became a Republic in 1961.
Almost 80 years later a South African musician, Jak de Priester (Jac the Priest) sat in a park in London. He has run out of money, the teaching job he was promised (teaching German to schoolkids) did not materialize and he was heartbroken. He opened his small bible and read Matthew 10:29-31 and prayed for work. The next morning his phone rang with a job offer. He jumped on the tube to attend the interview. That afternoon late he was back on the train to his place of residence, tired but happy. As he got into the train, he saw a coin on the floor of the carriage, bend down and picked it up. In the middle of London, on a train he stood with a South African 1 cent coin in his hand with the sparrow on the coin. The world around him came to a standstill, and he realized the significance of what has just happened, that God was with him on the train and that prayer is the answer to the broken world we live in.
The Sparrow symbolizes what Africa Agriculture Production stand for, to bring hope to our continent, to bless people with dreams to farm by sharing our skills, knowledge and experience with the poor communities and small-scale farmers guiding them with hope to a better tomorrow.