Mother-superior Celestine

Sister Célestine lives in Isiro, the provincial capital, about 450 km to the west. During a visit to the parish in our area, she looks at fields that have been planted according to the 4Pijler method. Célestine is immediately interested. A week later she sends her nephew to follow practical training. In Isiro she now also wants to work with the 4Pijler method. This is a good reason for us to travel to the provincial capital. The Catholic sisters receive us generously in their guest house with three substantial meals a day. We are guests with them for three days. Celestine is an educated woman. She teaches law at the university and speaks impeccable French. As Mother Superior and leader of the convent of nuns, she is responsible for the agricultural projects of her parish. This is a 65-hectare site in the wooded area of ​​Isiro. She wants to apply the 4Pijler method throughout this area. What a fantastic promotion of our work!

In Isiro we present the 4 Pillars in different churches with a seminar and practical training. We pay a visit to the provincial minister of agriculture. The 4Pillar method is well received by him. So much so that he and his private guard join us on a field visit. The gouvernour’s agricultural advisor is also there. They follow the explanation Roelof gives with interest. Celestine is there with some of the nuns and interested people from different churches. Roelof shows how to plant in non-ploughed soil. And does a small test for the acidity and composition of the soil. The minister and the advisor are on the nose. Sister Celestine keeps the atmosphere going with a spontaneous song about the 4Pillars.

Mungbere is on the route to Isiro. The people here had repeatedly asked us to come. On the way there, we will spend a few days with Church leaders and conduct seminars and hands-on training. Mungbere is located in the middle of the tropical rainforest. We sleep in the deacon’s house, a cabin with a canopy. The deacon’s wife is very proud that we have come to sleep in her house. In the evening, a bucket of warm water puts down for us to wash with.

The people can only work very small pieces of land. It is hard work to cut down a piece of jungle for agriculture. The first year you can grow well on it, but then the weeds start to proliferate. That is another reason to develop the next piece of forest and so it goes on. With the 4Pijler method people can continue to grow on a piece of land and the rainforest is spared. There is a lot of interest in the seminar with representatives from all different churches.

The journey to Isiro and back is an adventure in itself. Because our car is still not running, we take the Congolese public transport. We have no problems on the way to Mungbere. Then it starts. After two nights in Mungbere we want to continue to Isiro. We look for a bus or a taxi, but they don’t drive, it eventually becomes the motorcycle taxi. Roelof and I each on the back of a moped over 140 kilometers. After 5 hours of driving, a lot of dust, heat and fatigue, we arrive at the sisters in Isiro.

On the way back we have better luck: a bus goes close to Lanza! Everything goes smoothly all morning. Then the bus suddenly stops, in the middle of the jungle. What is going on? We take a look and see that the bridge is damaged. What now? Someone has already cut a tree from the forest with a chainsaw. Now the log must be towed to the bridge. All passengers on the bus work with all their might. They are working on it all afternoon. Little by little he comes closer. Ultimately, the gap is closed.

We can drive again. I get on the bus optimistically while most people are still outside to see how things are going. The joy does not last long, after a few meters it goes wrong. The bus deviates too much to the right, slips into the ditch and capsizes. There it hangs, stuck in the mud. Several attempts to pull it out fail. It is now dark. We will have to spend the night here, the driver announces. This is a night we will not soon forget. Sitting crookedly, 10 long hours, waiting for the morning. The Congolese accept it all resignedly. This is just part of the deal when you are traveling … The atmosphere in the bus remains good, even jokes are made. Then it finally becomes light and help arrives. The bus comes loose and here we go again. Without further delay we arrive home.

A new year in Lanza

We entered this year with fresh energy. Last year, we started the work of the 4 Pillars on a small scale in order to examine several uncertainties, together with the residents of Lanza. Some of those were; which green manure works best with which crop, what are the best time to sow and how would the poorest farmers pick up the new techniques. We now have the most important questions answered.

It is therefore time to gradually begin expanding more widely. We received requests in the towns of Faradje, Aba and Todro within the district of Faradje. These are all places with a large CECA church present and within 200km of Lanza. Since we’re in the dry season the roads are not too bad, so it is time to travel. Mid-January we made a tour through the above-named places. Apart from a problem with the breaks, which was solved, the journey was a great success.

It was very special to return to our previous hometown, Todro, after a year and meet with old friends. This time we were there for two nights and had more time to spend with people. We also had time to hike up the Todro mountain, which we did so many times when we lived here.

There was a lot of interest for our workshop in all three places. We were accompanied by two trainers in training: Mateso and Elisa. Each time we gave them a little more ownership over the presentations, providing feedback at the end. It was incredible how quickly they picked it up and how well they processed the feedback.

Every workshop concludes with a practical demonstration, followed by a planning meeting to determine groups and designated contacts for each group who Mateso and Elisa will follow up with. When the groups have been sufficiently trained, the contact will inform us, and Mateso and Elisa will return to the area to examine the group’s skills. If they pass, they can start to practise the first pillar: Sow without ploughing (no till).

The 4 Pillars are also spreading closer to home, in the adjacent council of Bovi which is 40 km away from us. There are already trained groups there who have received their first credit for crop protection at the start of the growth season. The credit has been paid back. They celebrated with a large party to which we were invited. The fact that groups of farmers can receive credit for this purpose and pay it off is ground-breaking and cause for hope that many more people can be supported in this way.

Yvonne from Bovi is very happy with the 4 Pillar method. We asked her to why she likes to practise the method. She is the breadwinner in a large family since her husband is often sick. She therefore organises the farm on her own and paying people to plough 1 hectare of land gets very expensive, very quickly. Consequently, she is left without enough income to sustain her family. With the new method she can easily manage 2 hectares on her own, whilst saving money on maintenance and sowing of her crops.

Mona is a practical instructor from the Lanza area who has already trained up two 4 Pillar groups. His first group received £120 credit for plant protection products which they paid off in full. Now his first group can receive the second credit and his second group is ready to receive the first credit. Mateso is in a similar situation, his first group repaid their first credit in form of rice, about 200kg.

This week we were invited to a village across the river. We travelled there by motorcycle and a canoe to cross the river.  The children there had never seen white people and we were received with a lot of interest and handshakes.

This is how our work spreads and we are so pleased it is happening so successfully. There are many more requests waiting for us, nearby and further afield. 

We are so thankful for your interest in our work and the way you express your support through emails, WhatsApp messages, financial donations and prayer. Your prayers have been very important, and we ask you to keep lifting our work up to God.

We thank God for:

Our health

Sufficient financial means for the 4 Pillar project

The spreading of the 4 Pillar method

The repayment from groups for their first credit

Our passports with visa’s which are waiting for us in Bunia!

Please pray for:

Wisdom in spreading the work

Enough and continuous devotion to the poorest families

Safety in all our travels