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.

Quarterly report 6, April – June 2020

Mission Roelof and Remke van Til – Congo (DRC)

Quarterly report 6, April – June 2020

The quarterly reports of the 4 Pillars follow the order of the planning as presented on

1. Establishment and residence in the Faradje district.

We enjoy our new home and the field around it. Everything is very basic, but the extra space allows us the ability to be on our own when we so desire.  Our toilet is a special feature, a compost toilet in a little shack built from eucalyptus wood, covered with a corrugated sheet. We empty the buckets in pits dug around our banana trees, which we cover up with soil. This is an efficient and hygienic fertilization method and our bananas thrive, although people around us still raise an eyebrow or two.

2. Alignment of expectations with the population, local churches and local government.

The Faradje district inspector has kept aloof so far. We have sufficiently explained and presented the 4 Pillars in Faradje, but he was always the great absentee. He is still a young high official and is primarily concerned with what people think of him in even higher echelons. Fortunately, we recently had the opportunity to speak to him extensively. He thawed visibly and gradually started to show interest in our work. We have even been able to make arrangements for 4 Pillar training for the inspector and his staff. This is important. An active and positive inspector involvement can give our work an important boost.

3. Participate in the conference “Development Faradje”.

The planned conference of April 14-18, has been cancelled due to corona measures. No new date has been set yet.

4. Regular visits to the poorest families.

The 4Pillar method does not offer a solution for all poor families. We are getting to know more and more poor families and it has become clear to us that a number of them hardly benefit from our approach. Some do not even attempt to apply the techniques of the 4 Pillars. Our work, therefore, has certain boundaries, which we are increasingly able to visualize. Fortunately, because knowing these limits protects both us and certain poor families from unrealistic expectations.

These are, for example, families whose husbands have a serious alcohol or drugs problem. Such a family has not been helped with a better method for agriculture. Maybe the family would earn more, but the man would spend all the extra money on alcohol or drugs. Instead of better farming, the family would benefit from pastoral counselling and professional help for the addict for the time being. These families are outside our immediate target group, but we keep in touch with some. We talk to family members including the husband and pray with them. How wonderful it would be if there were Christian professionals here who could devote themselves full time to prayer, therapy and counselling. It concerns large numbers of families.

Another example is families that have long survived through donations from neighbours, family and the Church. It is often families who have a serious and chronic illness. Or single elderly people who have no children or who have been abandoned by their children. These families do not depend on what their fields yield, but on good relationships within the local community. They are present at all social and church events and they spend a lot of time maintaining personal contacts. In the meantime, the weeds grow in the rice crop, but that is less important.

Fortunately, the 4Pillar method works for many other extremely poor families. We are surprised to see how studious young single mothers are and how well they have started to apply the 4Pillar methods. Some have already gained experience with the new techniques for two seasons and can train and guide others. Usually, this happens spontaneously, without us being involved. Families with parents who live with physical disabilities are also becoming more enthusiastic. They do everything to obtain the necessary agricultural inputs. Some sell a few chickens for this, others participate in credit groups.

5. Prepare for training in the 4 pillars.

The multiplication of good plant material is and remains an important topic. We have paid a lot of attention to cassava. Healthy cuttings are urgently needed. These are produced on the 4Pillar fields and on the fields of members of the 4Pillar groups. It is quite a difficult job for people. It comes down to good selection, continuous sterilization of tools and hygiene in cleaning planting and maintenance of the cuttings. For us, this means a lot of work in training and guidance. But it’s worth the effort. Cassava is very important for the food supply and also for income. A quarter of a hectare of healthy cassava is a major step forward for a family.

We will also continue to invest in improving corn seed. We have improved one variety and it is now grown on a large scale among the population. Some members of the 4Pillar groups produce seed for this. But they have not yet mastered all the details. The seed therefore still contains too many viruses. Sometimes the seed is not pure, because the plants are pollinated by plants of local varieties. That is why we continue to produce corn seed on the 4Pillar fields, as much as we can. It would be nice if the government took on this work. We hope to speak to the agricultural inspector soon about this.

The land for the 4Pillar fields is free. But the culture does oblige us to show our gratitude for this. This is done by giving appropriate gifts to the chief of the village and to the chiefs at higher levels. We gave two goats on behalf of the 4 Pillars to the chief of the village. He was very happy with it. The highest chief in the region, the “chef de chefferie” received inputs for agriculture. The chief asked us to join the board of the chefferie. We explained to him that this is not a good fit for our mission. We have, however, made ourselves available as independent advisers.

6. Provide training on the 4 pillars.

The 4Pillar workshops are continuing as planned. Ten local trainers, two of whom are women, visit villages and groups within a radius of over 150 kilometres. At the invitation of the local population, they train and guide those interested in the simplest techniques. Sometimes we are aware of the training, but very often we are not. The population organizes itself in groups, invites a trainer and buys the necessary inputs. In accordance with the national Covid:19 measures, the workshops are only delivered within small groups.

In regions where the 4Pillar method is still completely unknown, we are present at the first training sessions. For example, we were recently in a region where a neighbouring population has very recently settled. In their original area, the soil is completely exhausted. They sense new opportunities in Faradje district where there is still much-untouched nature. For the gift of one goat, the local chef allows the cutting down of the forest. Once such a group has established itself, the beautiful jungles are gone. The young men cut down all the trees without exception, after which everything is set on fire. It is total and irreversible destruction on a large scale. Fortunately, one of our employees contacted them, explaining the 4Pillars. Two 4Pillar groups have now been formed. These have made a solid start with the application of the first techniques. It is urgent because most people of this population group still continue the cutting down and burning of the jungle. There were only ten 4Pillar projects here.

7. Guiding the poorest families in the 4 pillars.

It rained a lot and regularly in the past quarter. The participants in the 4Pillar groups were actively preparing the fields, sowing and weeding. According to the first pillar, there is no ploughing or digging; one sows directly in dead or dying organic material. Some group members have started sowing green manures (Pillar 2). A larger number have stopped burning weeds and crop residues and leave all the organic material on the bottom (Pillar 3). We provide as much improved corn seed as possible and healthy cuttings of cassava (Pillar 4).

The many new groups require intensive supervision. The local trainers were quite busy with this. Some of them have been away from home regularly for several days to help groups in remote areas. For this they received financial compensation from the 4Pillar budget. The costs of transporting trainers gradually increase. To stay within the budget, we will require contributions from the population for this. We expect people will be prepared to do this, given the great interest in the 4 Pillars.

We currently estimate the total number of 4 Pillar groups at fifty. We do not know exactly because new groups are spontaneously added. All seven groups that received credit in the past year have paid off their debt. Due to this good development, we increased the number of credit groups to fourteen.

8. Spread the 4 pillars.

Originally, our mission was limited to Faradje District, Haut Uele Province. The previous quarter we started with a 4 Pillar centre in Bunia, in the neighbouring province of Ituri. Recently we have made contacts with representatives of the people and of the Church in the important border towns of Aru and Adi. The doors seem to be wide open in these places for the 4 Pillars.

An important step in the distribution of the 4 Pillars is the appointment of Ndane. Ndane is an evangelist, around sixty years old. Everyone knows him because of his distinct personality, his zeal for the gospel and his humour. He showed great interest in the earliest phases of our mission. Both for us personally and for our work. Since this term, he has been exempted from full-time service within the 4 Pillars by the Church. We are very happy with this important representative of both the Church and the people. From the 4Pillar budget, he does not receive a salary but does receive reimbursements for travel and communication. Ndane takes responsibility for the organization and supervision of many training sessions and travel. It is nice for the local trainers and for the 4Pillar groups when he is there. Ndane brings atmosphere and cheerfulness. With him, the Bible opens, and the gospel is preached.

9. Evaluations of the work.

Does not apply in this quarter.

10. Presentation of the 4 pillars to the Ministry of Agriculture.

This trimester does not apply.

11. Consult with our supporters about the future, concrete planning and action.

Besides doing executive agricultural work, we also focus on doing agricultural research. We formulated our research questions with the advisor of the 4Pillars and a plan was made for the research activities. The questions concern both technical and organizational issues. If you want to view these, you can request them by email to We would like to exchange ideas with you.

At the request of our home front team, we have written a short document in which we explain the use of weed control and plant protection products within the 4Pillars. This document is also available by email to We would also like to discuss this with you.

We are always open to questions and feedback. The aforementioned e-mail is also available for this.