Driving through Armagh County on a recent visit to Northern Ireland, I was overwhelmed by its beauty. The scenery transported me back in time to the first visit I made to my parent’s newly purchased farm in Western Kenya over forty years ago. The lush green of the land and the gently flowing water spoke of a countryside teeming with potential. That potential made my parents choose it as the place to invest in their future and that of their children.
For every year since then, my parents have planted a crop to feed their children and grandchildren. The cycles of tilling the land, planting the crop, weeding and harvesting, have been an important part of their life. Their bond with the soil and the seasons is strong.
Sowing the seed and waiting for the rain
My happy memory brought with it a measure of sorrow. This year, the rains failed. As is customary, my parents had prepared the land and planted their seed, teased by the early showers of rain that indicated the time to plant was due.
It was not to be. The little rain that fell only managed to rot the seed in the ground without germinating. The second rains came too late for them to plant another crop.
They were discouraged, but we their children encouraged them to consider an alternative. Grass for feeding cattle is a recent and profitable venture in Kenya. They accepted the suggestion, planted grass seed. It germinated and grew strong (picture below, left).
They harvested it when it was mature. Full of renewed hope and expectation, they left it in the fields to dry before baling it. Then, unexpectedly, the short rainy season came early. Within a few days they announced that their grass had rotted in the field (picture right, above). They had lost another crop.
Those rains also wreaked havoc in other parts of the country that had only recently experienced severe drought. They indiscriminately swept away people and livestock, destroying homes. The October report of the Kenyan Famine Early Warning System stated that “October 2019 was one of the wettest months on record since 1981, according to preliminary satellite-derived data. A forecast of continued above-average rainfall in November is likely to cause localized, negative impacts to crop and livestock production and food access in the short term, due to disruptions to livelihoods activities”.
Connecting the dots and speaking for creation
Much as we have tried, my parents and many others like them are yet to connect the dots. They understand that the seasons are changing but they cannot tell why. Their rhythm of life, so connected to nature, has been disrupted.
The adverse effects of climate change are happening faster and more regularly than people are able to adapt to. The call for action in protecting the environment and acting against climate change could not be more urgent.
This week in Madrid, Christian Aid policy and advocacy staff will be hard at work at the 25th UN Climate Summit (COP25), lobbying and arguing for a rapid acceleration and deepening of climate action. In 2020, climate justice will be a focus of our campaigning. We will be looking to our supporting communities to walk with us in speaking for creation, as well as amplifying the voices of those directly affected by the changing climate.
Grief and loss
I have recently received a new message from my parents. For so long, they have prided themselves on supporting themselves, their children and other needy people from the land they have nurtured. Now they have turned to us, their children, for help. We will have to purchase a year’s supply of maize for them.
They are grieved that they will have none to give to their children and grandchildren. They are grieved that they will have none to give to the needy. They are grieved that they will have none to give to the church. Their concern lies in what they now cannot give to others.
But what about those who are the poorest of the poor, whose challenge over the next year lies in wondering what they themeselves will eat? We must raise our voices to stop the seed rotting in the ground.
Learn more about Christian Aid's expecations for COP25 in this briefing.