|Fidji Kifufu has brought new life to the agricultural |
program of the Kikongo Pastor's School.
That is one reason that the Kikongo Pastor’s School (IPK) made agriculture a key part of its program. Leaders wanted to make sure that candidate pastors and their families could make a decent living off the land. But their vision extended further. They knew that better varieties and improved agricultural techniques could improve rural people’s production. (It is not unusual to be able to double production with varieties and techniques available today.) They also knew that people had few opportunities to hear about and try out agricultural innovations. They reasoned that if young pastors could see the potential of agricultural innovations while preparing for rural pastorates, when they started their ministries they would be equipped to share God’s provision for more productive farming, more secure food supply and better livelihoods.
|Rita Chapman and Fidji Kifufu inspecting student fields with me in May. Manioc is robust, with health green leaves and no sign of mosaic virus. This variety is called Obama, one of the highest yielding varieties to be identified to date.|
At the end of May I spent a week with Fidji and the IPK students. What has happened in the last year has been remarkable. I hope that the change in these families’ prospects (both during their study years at Kikongo and in their future parishes) is equally remarkable. The shift in direction was not easy.
Students started off grumbling a lot. Cultivating fields is hard work. Juggling classwork and fieldwork, especially during planting and early weeding, requires intelligence and persistence. Under Fidji’s guidance, the students planted two new varieties of peanuts and manioc. The rains didn’t cooperate – three weeks of drought just at flowering time). The peanut harvest was disappointing … until students compared their yields with the even more disappointing yields of neighbors cultivating the current traditional varieties.
The manioc fields I saw this week are the best fields in years. Manioc plants are tall and vigorous. Disease-resistant varieties dominate the student fields for the first time ever, I think. This may be the first year that student families can supply most of what they eat from their own fields rather than having to buy food on the local market or maybe even go hungry.
|Second-year pastoral student getting started on a dry season garden. This garden will keep a family in nutritious greens for four months, crucial extra food particularly important for growing children.|
|Fidji standing in waist-deep soil-enriching cover crops at the site of the pastoral school's dry-season gardens|
Students still grumble about the work in their own agricultural fields. But after a year the grumbles are somewhat muted by surprisingly healthy crops and improved production. Two weeks ago Rita wrote again after an evaluation of student fields.
“What really wowed us all was the impressive number of manioc tubers under each sample we looked at from each field. With only gentle digging, we counted 17 tubers on one plant - and there were probably more underneath that we didn't see. An Nsansi plant [improved manioc variety] had 15. The students are thrilled. . . . The third year students are saying that when they leave next week, they are going to tell everyone along the way that there is no more hunger at IPK."
Every once in a while we get a chance to be part of people catching glimpses of provisions that God has made for people here in Congo. Seventeen tubers on one plant is not a fluke; it is the regular production of superior varieties planted at the right time and cared for throughout their production cycle. God created those plants and created inquisitive scientific minds that “discovered” them and the techniques that make them highly productive. Who better to tell people in impoverished communities about them than a new pastor who has literally tasted the fruits of God’s handiwork?