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A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo

March 28, 2013

Dear friends,

Muoyo wenu! (Life to you!)

In your letters from the United States, I hear mention of spring coming, and I’m enjoying descriptions of robins and budding trees and flowers.  Here, the seasons change very little, but, as everywhere, there are opportunities to “sing to the Lord a new song!”  The Community Development Program (CDP) of the Presbyterian Community of Congo is in its second year and is still forming systems of support and communication between its member organizations. The CDP’s two most ambitious three-year objectives are to promote food security and decrease incidence of childhood malnutrition

PRODEK association discussing needs for bicycles for marketing produce

1.     Annually increase agricultural yields by 30 percent (in kilos) for food grown by associations of the program PRODEK (Program for Development in the Kasais).

  1. Increase the production of peanut and bean seed by 30 percent each year.
  2. Increase the production of manioc plants for use as seedlings by 30 percent each year.
  3. Increase the production of corn, peanuts, beans, and manioc for use as food by 30 percent each year.
  4. Begin in 2012 to measure the production of the following vegetables to show an increase by 30 percent in 2013 and 2014:  pig weed, cabbage, and edible squash leaves.
  5. By 2014 every identified family with malnourished children and all association members will have three moringa trees on their household property and will be able to demonstrate the use of the leaves for nutritional family meals.
  6. Increase the ability to process agricultural products: In three years, through microfinance programs, 150 more oil presses will be in use and 10 more corn and manioc mills will be in use.
  7. Increase animal production:  In three years, pork will number 2,220 heads over 37 associations; rabbits will number 7,830 heads over 29 associations; chickens will number 30,000 over 20 associations, and guinea pigs will number 225,000 over 150 associations.

Medi Kanda of PRODEK teaches association members to recognize plant disease and how to prevent them

Just outside the city limits of Kananga I visited with a group of 11 community members (8 of whom are women) led by Mamu Esther, the President of the Women of the Church of Kananga.  The group showed me through their fields of palm oil trees that were begun in 2009 with the help of PRODEK.  Every year after that they have learned to plant more crops between the palms: corn, beans, and peanuts.  Methods learned from PRODEK include planting in rows with the spacing allowing for stronger produce, planting beans between the rows to provide more nitrogen to the soil, and rotation of crops.  Every growing season PRODEK assists such association members to evaluate their crop production by estimating kilos produced per square area of cropland. 

Another example of the plan to increase agricultural yield are three recent grant proposals to the PC(USA) that have included funding for PRODEK to provide train-the-trainer instruction in raising guinea pigs to Presbyterian youth groups in Kananga with the plan that youth will develop their Christian community outreach to households in Kananga with malnourished children and/or recently placed orphans or street children.  Part of the plan for maintaining the program after the funding period includes the families giving back to the church 10 percent of each new litter of guinea pigs so that the church can generate income for continuing the program in their neighborhood and 30 percent of income raised by each church with these new guinea pigs will be saved for extending the program to a new presbytery.

These guinea pig–raising plans are a small part of these comprehensive health promotion programs that will train church and community members in evaluating the needs of households with children who are known to be malnourished.  Assisting families with malnourished children is a second major objective for the CPC’s Community Development Program:

  1. Christian Health Education (CHE) volunteers discuss nutrition lesson plans

    2.     By the end of year 2014, 90 percent of children 6 months through 5 years of age identified in 2012 and 2013 with an arm circumference measurement indicating malnutrition will have obtained a normal measurement for nutritional measurement.

Malnutrition is a complicated concern and will require extensive planning and cooperative program implementation. Our agriculture and Christian Health Education (CHE) teams will also be planning with our evangelism leaders due to the strongly held beliefs in spirit possession by young children.  Disease and deaths complicated by malnutrition are believed to be caused by curses or supernatural possessions.  But the strong power of Christ is multiplied when the Body of Christ comes together in loving action toward neighbors.  The love of Christ will be with our collective efforts in Kananga.

Thank you for your gifts to this partnership between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Community of Congo.  You are truly part of this Body of Christ coming together in loving action with and for your neighbors in Congo.

With thanks and love,

Ruth

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  (Mathew 25:37-40)

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 110
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