Mission Roelof and Remke van Til – Congo (DRC)
Quarterly report 5, January – March 2019
The quarterly reports of the 4 Pillars follow the order of the planning as presented on www.4pillars.nl.
1. Establishment and residence in the Faradje district.
Our house is ready. Getting the floors, walls and ceilings right was a long process but at the end of March we could, to our relief, finally move in. The cottage has walls of wood and clay, a cement floor and a corrugated iron roof. The ceilings are made of plywood. It has a fairly large storage space, intended to store agricultural equipment, including stocks of highly qualified seed.
2. Alignment of expectations with the population, local churches and local government.
We notice that there are fewer and fewer questions about the way we carry out our mission. It is now well understood that we are not here for free handouts and very limited in our capacity. When groups of people who are further away want to receive training and guidance, they will have to organize themselves, buy their own materials and seek help from someone who has had sufficient training in the 4 Pillars. At the same time, it is known that people can be called upon to provide larger workshops and explain the 4 Pillars to government officials who have questions and check the quality of training and guidance.
3. Participate in the conference “Development Faradje”.
Not applicable this quarter. The next conference is scheduled from April 14-18. It is likely to be delayed due to Covid:19.
4. Regular visits to the poorest families.
Since the new rainy season has started, we have visited a number of fields of the poorest families that are part of one of the 4 Pillar groups in Lanza. We have supported these families in planning for the upcoming farming season with things like: how to manage the weeds, which crops to sow when, how to get good seed and how to fertilize the soil.
We were well aware of the limitations of this type of planning. During the previous rainy season it became clear that whole harvests can be lost because of a small setback. For example, physical limitations can lead to outright disasters. One family even lost the entire rice crop because the man and the woman, both very old people, were too sick to chase the birds during the ripening period. Another crop largely lost the harvest because it was impossible to weed in time due to illness.
Understandably, people prefer not to make ambitious plans. So the mindset it: ‘if you feel reasonably well, try preparing a field for sowing, if you succeed, look for someone to borrow or give you some seeds and then hope you have the power to weed and guard the field.’ It is known that the 4 Pillar method helps to improve production with less effort, but being reasonably healthy and fit remains a condition for success, a factor which can be highly uncertain. The people we visited the most in the past quarter therefore seek their assurance exclusively from God. Our method is welcome, but their hope is in the Lord alone.
5. Prepare for training in the 4 pillars.
We made additional investments in irrigation, workers and storage so that we could make full use of the dry season – December to February – for the production and storage of seed and green manures. A large part of the research could also continue and we could purchase agricultural inputs for the 4 Pillar groups.
We have now conducted more than a year of field research to ensure that the 4 Pillars optimally match the reality of the farming families. We have gained a lot of knowledge and insight. These are indispensable for the proper distribution of the 4 Pillars. Each pillar involves a number of new techniques that people must learn. This only works if they are presented and practised in a simple way. Full attention should be on matters that really matter, less important things should be left out. We are happy with the answers we have already received to quite a few research questions. This allows us to make better choices about what is and is not important. We are grateful for the support we received and receive from Klaas Plas, the agricultural advisor of the 4 Pillars. We also benefited from input from a colleague in plant breeding.
We have used our experiences and insights to adapt our presentations and training courses. Our material is now available in French and in Lingala.
6. Provide training on the 4 pillars.
In the past quarter, we again received a lot of requests to deliver training. At least ten places had spontaneously started setting up 4 Pillar groups, with the official invitation to come for support. In consultation with Church leaders, we have decided to accept five invitations. The choice of places was based on the central location and thus the possibilities to further spread the 4 Pillars from there. In total we made three visits to these five places. The first visit was for the general presentation, making contacts with local leaders and supervising the organization of the 4 Pillar groups. The second and third visits were for practical training.
A highlight was the presentation in Makoro, one of the chosen places, 55 km from Lanza. The invitation to us came from the Catholic Church. This church held a large seminar for their ecclesiastical pastors from a wide area. During this seminar, we were able to give a presentation about the 4 Pillars, in the central cathedral. People were very interested. The leadership of the Catholic Church expects a lot from the 4 Pillar method and actively promotes our work.
Due to the intensive training delivery and the many trips that were required for this, we have had relatively high costs for transport and personnel.
7. Guiding the poorest families in the 4 pillars.
At the beginning of the rainy season, mid-March, many of the 4 Pillar employees, spread across different 4 Pillar centres, were involved in guiding families in the application of the 4 Pillar techniques. The techniques of no longer ploughing and digging and the use of good seed were central.
The necessary agricultural inputs can be bought or received on credit. We purchased supplies for both destinations. Meanwhile, some of the inputs have actually been bought by people, with the money being returned to the 4 Pillar budget. The repayments of the credits are also reversed.
8. Spread the 4 pillars.
There are now 6 centres for the 4 Pillars: Lanza, Bovi, Todro, Aba, Faradje and Chadu. A depot has been established in Todro for the storage and sale of agricultural inputs. The administration of this is in the hands of the manager of the guesthouse of the church in Todro. This seems to be going well for the time being. The only concern is to regularly supply the depot with goods. The demand for 4 Pillar related inputs is enormous and it is difficult to supply enough material in time.
9. Evaluation of the work
See Appendix. NB. The evaluation led to a revision of the total 2019/20 budget. The total amount is 5,707 euros higher, The total budget is now 53,707 euros, instead of the original 48,000 euros. This budget increase is possible because more than the budgeted monthly contributions came in in 2019 and in the beginning of 2020.
In the first quarter of 2020, we had relatively large expenses. This is due to the intensive preparations for the rainy season of 2020, including many extra trips and the purchase of many materials and agricultural inputs. We expect spending to balance income in the coming quarters. In this way, the total revised budget will cover the expenditure.
10. Presentation of the 4 pillars to the Ministry of Agriculture.
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 4Pijlers and the initial plan was made of the research activities. The questions concern both technical and organizational issues. If you want to view these, you can request them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to exchange ideas with you.
At the request of our home front team, we have written a short document explaining the use of weed control and plant protection products within the 4Pillars. This document is also available by email to email@example.com. 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.