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 www.4pillars.nl.

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 remkevantil@gmail.com. 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 remkevantil@gmail.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.

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