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Butoke Update, January 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are at the end of January 2006. January has been so full of important activities in the communities and with our international partners, that it passed in a wink.

Here in Kasai, January is a month of continuing harvest and also of preparing and launching the secondary season. The season of the witches continues with a high frequency of disease as well as high mortality. The unrest in society in general and in the schools finds expression in civil servant strikes that were lifted as a census of civil servants is to take place and teachers strikes that took off for a third time, in riot police chasing street traders and stealing their goods followed by crying and shouting, even some reckless counter attacks and marches.

The ongoing harvest is especially of peanuts, which were sown in September. Most beans and other crops have been harvested by now. For our associations it has meant hard work, a test of their ability to share with equity and in peace, a time of joy and chanting and dancing, but also a deception of some that what they considered big fields and big harvests when divided over all the participants are still quite modest. We are still working on getting the full statistics of the harvests but the overall impression is one a frank success, especially as the mixed feelings about overall potential and individual benefit correctly seem to stimulate people to think of working greater surfaces per person involved.

The preparation of the secondary season is fully engaged and many associations are ready to sow beans and plant cassava. We have received two grants for this season as well as having had a return of investment in seeds. The first grant of USD 12500 comes through Help the Aged Canada, the second comes through Africa Inland Mission and is of $15000 and aims at giving us a head start for the 2006 main season by creating seed farms now.
We have even more than before strengthened the social dimension of our food security action by challenging all associations to integrate people over 55 in their membership as well as include some women in their leadership. Most seem to accept with good graces , even though especially the inclusion of older people found a little resistance and will need careful follow-up. We estimate there are about 100ha of associative fields ready. Sowing will start soon. Hopes and enthusiasm are high as people want to surpass their performance of last season.

Almost more importantly, we have just received a grant which challenges us to make this a head start season by initiating 25ha of seed farms for beans and multiplication of ameliorated cassava.We are assured of AIM’s contribution to this and await ADRA’s response These seed farms will render Butoke independent of the market for bean seeds and permit the selection of better performing seeds and therefore of productivity of the fields. The plans of multiplication of ameliorated cassava has given high hopes as it could permit to introduce a variety which - where soil fertility exists because of clay, green manure an mixed culture with beans - gives 5 times the usual harvest. This would be an enormous improvement even if unfortunately it would only be applicable where conditions are favourable. A complication is that what we have been offered as cuttings so far comes from fields infected with mosaic virus. So Jean continues to explore different sources hoping to locate the best possible source of the best possible variety. We need your prayers that we succeed.

We continue to try to save medical emergencies as well as pray we will be enabled to start meaningful preventive activities (see an overview of our health activities on the web site of butoke)

Internationally this month was marked by continuing explorations and negotiations with AIM and CIDA to obtain a grant from the Innovation Fund that will launch a major food security project for 2 years. AIM is considering the possibility of extending the partnership beyond this project as the goal and objectives of Butoke and AIM seem very similar. We are excited at the prospect and really hope and pray that the partnership will be fruitful.

We received  an improvised 2 day visit of the team of ADRA Congo led by Mr Robert Britton. We were able to introduce them to different Butoke activities: food security, nutrition centre, habitat and some of the handicapped people. Everywhere activities were in full swing as they are every day, people working at solving problems. They found associations in the fields harvesting and participated in the festive mood, chanting and dancing. We had the evening hours to share impressions and reflections and dream what all might be possible given the necessary resources. Also Robert tried to understand why his experience here is so different from his experience elsewhere in Congo. We feel it is due to the hope we have been able to bring through consistent faithful action and witness, he thinks Kasai is simply more hopeful. Who knows? it might be both as we have seen definite changes over time.

The next international visit is already announced for end of March by an AIM team led by Mr John Brown. We are looking forward to it and hope that by that time CIDA will have decided whether to provide a grant to AIM and Butoke to undertake a two-year major food security project. But as already mentioned the AIM partnership can go much further, so we hope and pray.

Whatever suffering has been lessened or prevented by Butoke sponsored actions are so many seeds of hope. If we can continue to rekindle hope, there is a promise of societal healing and that is what we are all working towards. Our ADRA visitors pointed out that in Congo in their own experience and that of other big agencies theft and trickeries are common daily experiences. We have had some but comparatively infrequently and small scale. So maybe we are well on the way…if we stay faithful and continue to respond to Kasai people’s needs. Thanks for you support

Cecile, Jean and Lazare