International Ministries

A green revolution that could happen all over Africa

September 11, 2009 Journal
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Your contribution to the World Mission Offering already helped create a window of opportunity for these kids above. God put a Green Revolution in our hands.  Hundreds of villages have never heard about it.  You can help us change that.

Why has the green revolution bypassed Africa?  A recent article on the global food crisis in National Geographic said that cassava production in central Africa was down 3%.  Average cassava yields in many parts of Congo are stuck around 7 tons per hectare.  A devastating viral disease often cuts that average even shorter.  These depressing facts might lead you to conclude that techniques that boosted yields in Asia and India just don’t work in Africa.

You would be wrong!  Agricultural scientists HAVE come up with highly productive alternatives for rural households in the DR Congo.  On cooperating farms in the Lusekele area right now, new disease-resistant cassava varieties produce on average 3 to 5 times more than the regional average.  Almost invariably when Lusekele farmers tell their stories of no longer having food shortages in their village, or finally having enough to keep their kids in school, or buying a small farm, or putting a tin roof on the church building, the story starts with the revolution of planting high-yielding, disease-resistant cassava varieties.

God has already furnished the basic innovations necessary for a revolution in Congolese agriculture.  What is missing are dedicated and knowledgeable people willing to serve as bridges, allowing God’s bounty to reach the people who desperately need it.  If I were allowed to dream and had $2 million per year, I would unleash 1,000 agricultural extension agents, each working with 30 village groups.  Put a cassava multiplication field in every village and you have 75,000 acres of planting material.  Over three years you could have planting material available in every village.  By the end of five years, every farm family that wanted the new varieties could have seed cuttings for their own fields and they could be on their way to a new life.

We don’t have a million and a half dollars.  But God has given us enough to demonstrate what can be done .  Partners in churches in North America have provided $26,000 a year to mount a campaign.  Over 7 years Lusekele extension specialists Philo Bidimbu, Philippe Kikobo, Taflo Tanzusi and others have worked with 220 farmer’s associations.  In most cases they simply have given farm families their first chance to try out high-yielding varieties of cassava, peanuts, cowpeas and oil palms.  They have organized 382 cassava multiplication and demonstration fields.  Over 1000 farm households have established over 300 hectares (750 acres) of small-scale oil palm plantations, the first of which are beginning to generate additional family income.

The impact is measured by changes in villages, changes in families.  Kibongo and Longo, villages formerly known for food scarcity and hard times, are now exporting cassava surpluses.  All but one of Fala’s nine children are in school and the oldest has started university (a rare opportunity for a village kid.)  Pastor Kikumbula’s parish at Lubidi roofed the church building with money from their cassava multiplication fields.  Antoine Lemba’s experiments with new cassava varieties have inspired young people to think again about staying in the village and making a living from farming.  Moliambo farmers parlayed success in cassava production into a small business making chipped cassava.

Paul tells the Philippians that Christ “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”  (Phil 2:6,7)  Timothee Kabila and the Lusekele extension staff have adopted that attitude.  The world accords no special honor for working with poor village people.  The pay is lousy and the conditions hard.  The world would have been content to leave people in traditional poverty with limited opportunity, ignorant of the bounty that God has already prepared for them.  The disciples of Christ could not.  They are bringing a secure food supply to Bandundu province, creating the opportunities for kids to get a better education, and generating surpluses that make it possible for families to improve their lives.