Semi-annual Report 4 Pillars – First semester 2023

Missionwork of the 4 Pillars in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The reports are in accordance with the agreed format established by the Congolese Evangelical Church, CECA-20. For the first six months of each calendar year, the reports focus on providing a detailed account of the activities carried out within the 4 Pillars project. In contrast, the reports for the second six months also include an assessment of the extent to which the project’s indicators have been achieved.

On an annual basis, we submit our reports to Christian Professionals International, the German Christian organization that has been supporting us since November 15, 2020. They have been covering our insurance, a portion of the flight costs, and providing us with a monthly allowance. The report follows the same format we use for the CECA-20 report.

The current project period is set to conclude on December 31, 2023. Following that, the DV project will continue from Atzo, which is approximately 150 km northeast of Lanza, and situated close to the Ugandan border. As we transition to this new location, the objectives and methods of the project will be adapted to suit the specific environment. By the end of September 2023, we will provide comprehensive updates regarding the project’s continuation and the adjustments made for the new setting.

January – June 2023, by Roelof van Til

Goals 2021 – 2023The project aims to contribute sustainably to improved food supply and increased income for vulnerable farming families in the northeastern region of Congo.
Expected Results    Participating families cultivate their crops following the 4 Pillars method. The sustainability and resilience of agricultural production in the region are improved while preserving the environment. The techniques of the 4 Pillars are integrated into higher agricultural education and government extension services.
IndicatorsFor Expected Result 1: 1a. 1000 farming families practice no-till farming for their crops. 1b. 1000 farming families apply proper techniques to maintain the quality of their seeds.   For Expected Result 2: 2a. 1000 farming families leave all crop residues in the fields instead of burning them. 2b. 1000 farming families use cover crops (green manure). 2c. 1000 farming families practice crop rotation on the same fields each season, instead of clearing and burning new areas of forest or savanna.   For Expected Result 3: 3a. The 4 Pillars method becomes part of the curriculum in the agricultural college of CECA-20 in Rethy and the Shalom University in Bunia. 3b. In at least one province, the 4 Pillars method is included in the extension program of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Goals 2021 – 2023:

The project aims to contribute sustainably to improved food supply and increased income for vulnerable farming families in the northeastern region of Congo. By implementing the education provided by the 4 Pillars project, vulnerable families are able to establish and maintain relatively large fields, leading to increased yields per hectare. The combined effect is a significant improvement in both food supply and income.

Expected Results:

  1. Participating families cultivate their crops following the 4 Pillars method.

1a. 1000 farming families practice no-till farming. Over the past semester, the number of families adopting no-till farming has steadily increased, possibly exceeding 1,500. The exact number is not yet known since most of the increase occurs outside our field of view, in a spontaneous and quiet manner.

1b. 1000 farming families apply good techniques to maintain the quality of their seeds. Maintaining the quality of maize seeds requires expertise that is not easily transferred. It is likely that fewer than 200 families apply the correct techniques, considering the timing of actions: just before pollen release, right after the first cob ripens, etc. Maintaining the quality of soybean seeds is less demanding. Removing the most diseased plants in the fields and winnowing the poorest seeds after harvest are basic techniques that most families learn easily. The majority of the 300 families who received soybean seeds are successfully maintaining the seed quality. The same applies to cowpea seeds distributed to approximately 500 families through the project. However, the availability and multiplication of good-quality seeds remain a point of concern, even after 2023.

2. The sustainability and resilience of agricultural production in the region have improved, and the environment is conserved.

2a. 1000 farming families leave all crop residues in the fields instead of burning them. Most participating families now leave crop residues without burning them. This is remarkable because burning them saves time. However, it is evident that they are willing to invest in soil fertility. With no more plowing, they have extra energy and time, which they dedicate to improving soil quality.

2b. 1000 farming families use cover crops (green manure). Many families still find it challenging to apply cover crops, which remains the most difficult aspect of the 4 Pillars program. However, the number of families requesting cover crop seeds is gradually increasing. On the other hand, some families receive cover crop seeds but never sow them. There are a few families that produce and distribute cover crop seeds to acquaintances and friends. Overall, approximately 350 families are practicing cover cropping.

2c. 1000 farming families use the same fields season after season instead of clearing and burning new areas of forest or savanna. On the demonstration fields, continuous cultivation has been carried out for eight seasons, resulting in at least double the average yields compared to traditional farming methods. Successful 4 Pillars participants share the same experience: by applying the 4 Pillars method, fields can be sustainably cultivated. More people are becoming aware of this advantage. They can build a future close to home without having to constantly move in search of new land.

3. The techniques of the 4 Pillars are being taught in higher agricultural education and government extension services.

3a. The 4 Pillars method is now part of the curriculum at the higher agricultural school of CECA-20 in Rethy and Shalom University in Bunia. During the past semester, no visit was made to Shalom University. However, regular contact with agricultural professors through WhatsApp keeps us informed about their activities and focuses on the practical fields of the university. The 4 Pillars techniques are now considered fundamental and standard and are being taught. Additionally, there are some specializations, such as intensive banana cultivation and modern fish farming, which fall outside the core 4 Pillars program. However, it is interesting and educational to follow their progress in agriculture.

A comprehensive visit was made to Rethy, where three days of classes were taught at the higher agricultural school, the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique et Technique (ISPT). The classes were designed for both teachers and students, totaling 35 people. The lessons were a continuation of earlier teachings on integrated soil fertilization. Most participants struggled with the numerous calculations required for the subject, mainly due to their inadequate foundational education. Efforts are made to keep the course content and exercises as simple as possible. The level is likely comparable to secondary education in the Netherlands. In Rethy, most of the 4 Pillars techniques are now being applied on the practice fields.

3b. In at least one province, the 4 Pillars method is part of the agricultural extension program of the Ministry of Agriculture. As previously mentioned, in both provinces where the 4 Pillars program is implemented, there has been little success in integrating the 4 Pillars method into government policies. In fact, there is hardly any agricultural policy from the provincial government. However, there are now at least two members of the Ituri provincial cabinet who apply and promote the key techniques of the 4 Pillars program. The vice-governor is also a fervent supporter, both in words and actions.

The map below provides estimates of the number of families that fully or partially adopt the 4 Pillars method as of June 30, 2023. The total is approximately 1,600 families. The numbers in blue represent the families that joined during the past semester.

The map shows the distribution of the participating families in different areas of the province, indicating the growth and spread of the 4 Pillars method over time.

Activities in 2022 within the 4 Pillars project:

a. Establishing five centers for demonstrating the 4 Pillars method and conducting research. Expected results 1 and 2.

Five out of the six centers described in the previous report are functioning well. The sixth center in Mungbere is poorly managed due to personal circumstances of its owner. These centers continue to be effective as places for research, demonstration, and education.

b. Training local trainers in the 4 Pillars method. Expected results 1 and 2.

Training of local trainers took place outside of Lanza. Instead of focusing on new trainers, efforts were made to deepen and consolidate the capacities of existing trainers. Providing decentralized training allows trainers to be taught in their own environment, making the lessons more relevant to their daily practices. Moreover, neighbors and interested parties from further away can benefit from the training simultaneously.

Continuous learning and improvement are essential aspects of the 4 Pillars program. Most research is conducted on the central fields in Lanza, but discoveries and lessons learned are also shared from the other centers.

Efforts are made to keep all lessons and insights as simple as possible. Some trainers tend to present themselves as true educators, teaching fellow farmers an unnecessarily complex set of measures. However, most trainers now understand that good education is simple and focused on core issues.

d. Training and guiding farming families by the local trainers. Expected results 1 and 2.

The number of trainers who effectively apply the 4 Pillars method is gradually increasing. The line between trainer and experienced farmer is blurring, as many farming families who have gained experience in the 4 Pillars method offer guidance and training to their neighbors and visitors of their own accord. This spontaneous sharing of knowledge has reduced the demand for formal trainers. The focus now is on maintaining a group of competent top trainers who ensure the quality of education throughout the 4 Pillars region and promptly correct any mistakes.

e. Writing brochures and other educational materials. Expected results 1 and 2.

All existing brochures on the 4 Pillars, in both French and Lingala, have been revised. Most paragraphs have been slightly shortened and adjusted based on insights gained over time.

f. Identifying, purchasing, and testing new varieties and crops. Expected result 1.

The previously mentioned soybean variety has been replanted. If the yield is as good as the previous season, it can be cautiously concluded that the variety can be grown twice a year. The harvest from the previous season was largely distributed to interested parties.

A new variety of cooking banana has been introduced. This type of banana is a staple food for large parts of the population in Uganda and is highly appreciated in Congo as well. The genetic variation of this banana type in Congo is limited, making it vulnerable to diseases and pests. Broadening the genetic variety can prevent future problems. This aspect is also explained to the top trainers in the comprehensive course manual “Integrated Seed Systems.”

g. Training and guiding individuals in relatively complex techniques for seed improvement. Expected result 1.

The number of farming families that not only maintain good-quality seeds but also gradually improve them is steadily increasing. However, there have been cases where initial progress was made, but later, a mistake resulted in the loss of all investments. Improving seed quality involves a series of measures that must be taken at precise times and correctly. For instance, in the case of improving maize seeds, one must timely and correctly remove diseased plants, remove male inflorescences, select the right number of good cobs, and dry them properly. A mistake in storage, such as not regularly checking for weevils, can lead to seed germination being affected, resulting in the loss of the entire stock. While the loss of good seeds from some individual families may not be a problem, it is essential to ensure that there are enough families that possess and can sell good seeds to others. By the end of the program in 2023, this is expected to be the case for maize, soybean, and banana crops. However, improving and maintaining quality seed (cuttings) for cassava might not be entirely successful due to the extensive transmission of certain virus diseases by mosquitoes. Efforts to address this issue will continue beyond 2023.

h. Introducing and multiplying green manure crop seeds. Expected result 2.

It is encouraging to witness a gradual increase in the number of families that are multiplying Mucuna and Mimosa seeds. Families that received cowpea seeds are also multiplying and replanting the crop. The population is gradually being convinced of the importance of green manure in agricultural development in Congo. People are realizing that relatively small investments in this domain yield good returns.

i. Raising awareness among the population about the necessity of protecting nature and the environment, through government officials and radio broadcasts. Expected results 1 and 2.

Through the evangelical radio broadcaster RTK, the 4 Pillars have been explained several times, emphasizing the benefits for nature and the environment. During the four and a half years of residence in Lanza, the population has visibly increased, resulting in increased pressure on forests and savannas. The district of Faradje, to which Lanza belongs, experiences population growth mainly due to migration from other districts, particularly from the district of Aru. Many families settle in Faradje as the land in Aru is depleted, and there are no fertile and freely exploitable areas left. While there seems to be sufficient land available in Faradje, people are beginning to realize that it won’t last forever. However, the majority of the population lives day to day without focusing on long-term issues. Positive feedback on radio broadcasts is occasionally received, primarily from the relatively intellectual segment of the population.

j. Writing and using educational material for higher agricultural education. Expected result 3.

The course manual “Integrated Seed Systems” is mostly written, and the goal is to have the entire manual ready for publication by the end of August. Afterwards, the manual will be introduced to the agricultural professors at Shalom University and the ISPT.

k. Presenting the results of the 4 Pillars to provincial ministries of agriculture and assisting in integrating the 4 Pillars method into their extension work. Expected result 3.

Provincial ministries of agriculture have been challenging to access and demonstrate interest in the 4 Pillars method. Nevertheless, we have achieved greater success with certain representatives in the provincial cabinet and the vice-governor, as they actively apply the 4 Pillars method on their large farms. It is likely that they share their experiences and promote the approach with their colleagues at the provincial level and during public engagements.

Integral activities: Evangelism and Bible teaching

Remke and I have expanded the VAV approach, which stands for Vivre Avec Vision (living with vision). We dedicate approximately an hour and a half to engage in conversations with families, young people, or single mothers, focusing on their goals for the next 5 or 10 years. For the majority of Christians among them, we inquire about ways they can become more effective and valuable as followers of Jesus. These discussions hold great significance, offering ample opportunities for personal testimonies, reconciliation between spouses, and renewed dedication to the Lord. For us, these interactions serve as a means of learning and orientation. While the VAV approach is not yet an integral part of the 4Pijler method, we acknowledge the constraints of time, expertise, and personnel that prevent its inclusion. However, we remain enthusiastic about growing in this social-pastoral work, as there is a substantial need for it. Naturally, we collaborate closely with church leaders in these endeavors.

Unfortunately, the Jesus film is still unavailable in the local Dhongoko language. Nevertheless, thanks to the generous donation from the Sefanja congregation, we have gathered funds for its large-scale screening. We have also facilitated training sessions for evangelists, and as soon as the film is ready, we can proceed with its outreach.

As for the prayer house, we are pleased to announce that it has been fully completed, including the installation of a lighting system. The prayer team from Lanza frequently gathers there for night vigils, fasting, and prayer. Whenever the 4Pijler program permits, Remke and I actively participate, often leading Bible study sessions. The value of prayer and its impact are becoming increasingly recognized in the region. People afflicted with illnesses, particularly those related to sin or unclean spirits, seek assistance at the prayer house. Prayer is diligently offered for their healing, often accompanied by confessions of sins and renouncing of sorcery. Witnessing how God answers the prayers of His children is truly uplifting and encouraging. The members of the prayer team consider it a natural part of their faith journey, understanding that God hears and heals, which, indeed, is only logical.


Budget line item:Begroting 2021 – 2023Totaal uitgaven 2021 en 2022Begroting 2023Begroting semester 1, 2023Uitgaven semester 1, 2023Begroting semester 2, 2023
 Administration & Communication6.2904.7401.550775859691
 2. Training Roelof & Remke4.8343.4341.4007001.400
 3. Construction of Storage Space1.6581.658
 4. Security Costs3.3682.468900450429471
 5. Vehicle Expenses13.3978.3975.0002.5002.3572.643
 6. Visits to Uganda for Project Purchases7.0353.8353.2001.6001.7191.481
 7. Educational Activities: Travel and Accommodation2.7611.5611.200600596604
 8. Trainer Seminars Costs: Catering and Equipment6.4014.4012.0001.0009851.015
 9.CFI Mediation2.7701.846924462462462
 10. Training and Guidance for Target Groups36.33225.75310.5795.2905.4265.153
 11. Research and Demonstration13.98310.2023.7811.8911.9331.848
 12. Monitoring and Evaluation3.4792.3791.100550581.042
 Total Budget102.31131.63415.81716.810
 Expenses per Period70.67614.824
 Donations per Period14.544
 Starting Balance 20237.437
 Balance for the Period-280
 Current Balance7.157

Finances, Explanation:

Donor Contributions: During the past semester, the project received a total of 14,544 euros from various donors. Most of these contributions came from regular donors, and there were also some unexpected one-time donations. The total income exceeded the budgeted amount, and we are very grateful for the generous support.

Period Balance: In this semester, the project expenses slightly exceeded the income. The balance for the period is -280 euros.

Current Balance: Due to the positive balance of 7,437 euros at the beginning of this year, the current balance is 7,437 – 280 = 7,157 euros, slightly higher than initially anticipated. Additionally, there is a reserve of 4,750 euros allocated for vehicle maintenance.

Budget for the 2nd Semester 2023: The budget for the second semester is set at 16,810 euros. Assuming donor contributions of 2,000 euros per month, we can close the year with a positive balance of (6 x 2,000) + 7,157 – 16,810 = 2,347 euros.

Roelof’s future

Born in one of the poorest regions of Africa, this is the latest addition to the Mateso and Moseka family. He looks frightened. What kind of future awaits him? He was a chubby baby but has grown into a lean toddler of almost one year, with such striking features. For daddy Mateso his birth was a special occurrence: ”This is my first child who will be raised with the 4 Pillar method. He will only know about the heavy labour of ploughing and digging from stories. He will enjoy all the benefits of my experience with the new farming method. My wife and I called him Roelof.”

Mateso and Moseka are optimistic about the future. Materso says: ”We could not study. There was never money. The profits of the land from our parents were low. Even finishing high school was not an option for us. Everything has changed and God has blessed me richly. We have learned that we can farm the land with significantly less work and produce a higher yield. We plan to send all the children to school. I just paid off a dowry, so all the money I earn from farming can be used for education.”

I love having a namesake so close by. I try to make Roelof laugh, though unsuccessfully. Perhaps in a year we can kick a ball around together. Which profession do you think Roelof will choose when he is older? According to Moseka it is a smart child. He says: ”I hope he will be a doctor. I would be so proud.” ”No agricultural engineer?” I suggest ”Eh … haha”

I had a chat with one of the older sons, Azugai. He is not a big conversationalist, especially not with an older white chap. Me: ”Hey dude, any thoughts on the 4 Pillar method?” Azugai: ”Its pretty cool actually, less sweat and more profit.” Me: ”You will probably study agriculture?” Azugai has different plans. ”I want to become a car mechanic, the best in the world.” Fine by me, our car was out of action for 6 months, we would welcome an excellent car mechanic in Lanza.

Mateso is one of the few people who embraced the 4 Pillar method immediately. Most farmers need to warm to it since it is all new and a lot of training and changes are required. But there was a small group of families who had no hesitation. Remke and I were surprised by them. It was as if they could not wait to ditch their ancestors’ entire faming systems. This group has already been using the 4 Pillar methods on their fields for six seasons. We know each of them and they are our best instructors.

Um… all the money towards education? Mateso is now driving around on a shiny new moped. “Well, some things just have priority.”

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.