Climate Change and Development – A Story
Written by Tyler Edgar
Climate and Energy Program Manager
National Council of Churches
“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” - Psalm 22:24
Rosemary Mayiga is a rural Ugandan farmer who has been working to develop sustainable local agriculture in her community for more than a decade. Over the last few years, Rosemary has developed a cooperative group of farmers who support each other. She has worked hard to support the farmers in her community, coordinating seed purchases and trips to the local market to help reduce costs. Until 2007, she had been wildly successful: most families in the community grew enough food to feed their families with a little left over to sell for income. That income allowed them to send their children to school, travel into the nearby town more frequently and raise their standard of living.
Like farmers all around the world, every year is a little bit different for Rosemary and her community. The weather a little warmer or cooler, the rains coming a bit earlier or later, but generally, the climate each year remained the same with only mild variations. Then in 2007 everything started to change. That year, the rains were dramatically different—the fall rains came almost two months late. By that time, most farmers in the community who were unable to water their land had lost all their seeds and with them their opportunity to grow a crop. Families struggled to get by and some left the village temporarily to find other work. Many thought it would all go back to normal the next year.
However in 2008, the rains, again, arrived late. The farmers had used most of their savings the previous year to help their families survive and this year there was little money to buy new seeds or food when the crops died. As a result, this community is investing its time and energy in preparing for erratic rain cycles and life for many in the community has changed. Instead of receiving an education, children are now focused on helping their parents and their communities survive. In addition, Rosemary has turned her attention to ensuring her own crops are productive and doesn’t have as much time to help the community collaborate and grow.
Stories like this are growing more common in Africa, Asia and subsistence farming communities around the world. Even here in the U.S., farmers are struggling to recover from the unusual winter of 2010 – for example, thousands of Florida orange groves were lost to freezing temperatures. If we fail to address climate change, this will only become more and more prevalent, threatening the ability of our farmers to feed their families, their communities and the world while pushing families and communities like Rosemary’s further into poverty and limiting their ability to develop and prosper.
A Prayer for the Journey
From Episcopal Relief and Development
Let us pray for all nations and people who already enjoy the abundance of creation and the blessings of prosperity, that their hearts may be lifted up to the needs of the poor and afflicted, and partnerships between rich and poor for the reconciliation of the world may flourish and grow.
Almighty God, you created the world and gave it into our care so that, in obedience to you, we might serve all people: Inspire us to use the riches of creation with wisdom, and to ensure that their blessings are shared by all; that, trusting in your bounty, all people may be empowered to seek freedom from poverty, famine, and oppression. Amen.