Tomorrow morning I am off to visit our newest partner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will be my first visit, although we have had a team working there since July. Bob Morikawa and Christi Huizenga, from our office, made a number of trips before that, setting things up, conducting baseline studies, and laying the groundwork for what is happening now.
We are working in a small watershed the drains into Lake Tanganyika, south of Uvira in South Kivu. There are a lot of reasons that we chose to begin working there. The high level of need was one of the chief reasons. For example, in our baseline study we learned that 95% of the people in the watershed had gone at least twenty-four hours without eating in the previous month. On average people reported eating 1.3 meals per day.
Other factors in the choice of this area included the extent of the land degradation and the strategic location of the watershed. The existence of an effective local partner who could help to get Plant With Purpose situated and quickly up to speed was also important.
However, the fact that Uvira is so close to Bujumbura, Burundi, where we are also working, initially figured into the equation as well. Unfortunately, the current political situation in Burundi has made that much less convenient, so we will be taking a route that is a bit more convoluted, involving flying into Rwanda, taking a domestic flight across the country and then traveling overland through eastern Congo. These types of multi-day journeys wear on me more than they once did.
Still I am excited, because once there, we will meet Birori, who has been directing our pilot project and go with him to visit the savings groups that are already thriving and to see what the farmers are learning and applying. We know from our experience elsewhere that we should be able to very quickly improve crop yields and nutrition. We will also get to see how our Bible study curriculum is helping to empower the local churches and give people a sense of purpose and hope.
It has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to visit a program for the first time and I feel as excited for this trip as I did for trips 20 years ago.