Women step forward in push to nurture African climate scientists

Screenshot_2020-01-14 Women step forward in push to nurture African climate scientists
Women farmers tend their fields at the Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, September 18, 2014. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Busani Bafana

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, As a child, Kenyan meteorologist Saumu Shaka helped out on her parents’ small farm growing maize and pigeon pea – and learned how the weather can hold food producers hostage.

“Looking back, the yield has declined over the years,” said Shaka, 28, who works with the Kenya Meteorological Department.

A decade ago, her parents would get 25 sacks of maize from their six hectares in Taita Taveta County, southeast of Nairobi.

Today that has dwindled to five bags at most, because of erratic rainfall that can also spur crop-destroying pests.

As climate change fuels extreme weather and threatens harvests, Africa needs more scientific expertise to help small-scale farmers adapt, especially women who tend to be hit worst, said Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of Nairobi-based group African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women represent nearly half of farmers in Africa and produce up to 80% of basic food crops.

They are also largely responsible for preparing, storing and processing food.

But in many cases, the FAO says, they have limited rights, mobility and access to resources, information and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable and less able to adapt to climate change impacts than men.

“This means women’s continued under-representation in climate change research is no longer acceptable,” said Kamau-Rutenberg, noting that few have opportunities in science education.

AWARD is leading the One Planet Fellowship, a new initiative that will train 630 African and European scientists to use a gender lens to help African smallholders adapt to climate shifts, unusually offering Africans the opportunity to serve as mentors.

Under-investment in African scientific research capacity means “we still don’t even know the specific ways climate change will manifest … in Africa,” said Kamau-Rutenberg.

In September, the three-year career development programme welcomed its first cohort of 45 fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso – over half of them female.

The aim is to “set an example and dispel the myth that there are no African women scientists ready to step into leadership”, Kamau-Rutenberg added.

AWARD collaborates on the initiative, worth nearly $20 million, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, France’s BNP Paribas Foundation and Agropolis Fondation, the European Union and Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

‘FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE’

As one of the inaugural fellows, Shaka is seeking home-grown solutions to the challenges faced by farmers like her parents, who are battling to grow enough food on a warming planet.

Her research focuses on cost-effective “climate-smart” agribusiness techniques to help young people boost jobs and food security, which she will promote on social media platforms.

African scientists “have firsthand experience and solutions that are practical and applicable to their societal set-ups within their individual countries”, she said.

Women scientists, moreover, are better able to understand the specific challenges in designing community-tailored solutions to help fellow women, said the senior meteorologist.

Droughts and floods, for example, impose a health burden on women, who have to walk long distances in search of water and stay alert to the risk of waterborne diseases, she noted.

Pamela Afokpe, 27, an AWARD fellow from Benin, said “in-continent” experts could relate to the needs of African farmers more easily.

Afokpe, a vegetable breeder with East-West Seed International, is working to get more farmers growing indigenous leafy vegetables in West and Central Africa by helping them access high-yielding varieties resistant to pests and diseases.

Up to now, a limited number of African experts have contributed to the landmark scientific assessments published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which synthesises research and guides policymakers.

Out of 91 lead authors of the 2018 IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, only eight were from Africa, as were just a tenth of the 783 contributing authors.

South Africa’s Debra Roberts, co-chair of a working group for the IPCC ongoing sixth scientific assessment report and the first female co-chair from Africa, said the panel’s work showed tackling climate change required all of society to respond.

“Women have different lived experiences and views on the problems and solutions,” she said.

“We need to hear those voices if we are to be able to identify context-relevant solutions from the scientific literature. There is no one-size-fits-all,” she added.

Over the IPCC’s three decades of operation, there have only been three female co-chairs, two of them on the current report, she noted. “We have a long way to go still,” Roberts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

ENERGY PRIORITIES

Women also need to be involved in the practical design of climate solutions, such as expanding off-grid solar power and clean cooking, which can reduce drudgery and minimise health issues linked pollution, said agricultural experts.

As forest loss and climate change make resources scarcer, women have to go longer distances to gather fuel-wood, which puts additional pressure on their time, health and personal security, said Katrin Glatzel, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

In Mali, a public-private partnership has provided 1.6 million people with more efficient stoves, reducing pollution by half compared to a traditional three-stone fire, she noted.

Glatzel said it was important to include and empower female scientists and farmers in the switch to cleaner, modern energy, so that their concerns could be addressed.

A 2019 survey by charity Practical Action in rural Togo found women prioritised energy for pumping drinking water and processing crops, while men favoured mobile-phone charging and heating water for washing, she noted.

In northern Benin, meanwhile, a solar-powered drip irrigation system means a cooperative of 45 women now fetches water one or twice a week rather than daily, she added.

Bringing women on board with technological innovation for rural energy services is key “to ensure that end products meet their needs and those of their families”, she said.

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200113072646-hrp53/

Ivory Coast pledges trafficking crackdown as 137 child victims are rescued

Screenshot_2020-01-14 Ivory Coast pledges trafficking crackdown as 137 child victims are rescued
A child rescued by police from captivity, with strike marks on his back, bathes at the Hajj transit camp in Kaduna, Nigeria September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

DAKAR,  Ivory Coast police on Monday vowed to ramp up efforts to stop child trafficking after rescuing 137 children from forced labour and sex work in the first major operation in several years.

Police surrounded the southeastern town of Aboisso for 48 hours last week and searched vehicles, cocoa plantations and nearby villages for children who were being forced to work or transported for purposes of trafficking, the government said.

The victims ranged in age from six to 17 and came from the nearby West African countries of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo, according to a statement.

Twelve traffickers were also arrested.

“We are going to multiply this kind of operation,” police superintendent Zaka Luc told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The operation, code-named “Bia III”, was the first since at least 2017 and followed the launch six months ago of a new national action plan against child labour, said Luc, deputy director in the anti-trafficking division.

The government said it hoped to “send a strong signal” to traffickers by raiding Aboisso, a hot spot.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, introduced its first national plan to end child labour in 2012, but the problem remains widespread in poor farming communities.

An estimated 890,000 children work in the cocoa sector, some for their parents and some trafficked from abroad, according to a 2018 report by anti-slavery organisation Walk Free Foundation.

Children are also trafficked to Ivory Coast for other types of work, such as mining and domestic servitude. Among the victims rescued last week were at least six Nigerian girls being trafficked for prostitution, said police.

The rescued children were placed in the care of a charity in Aboisso while investigations are under way to find their parents, the government said.

“Ivory Coast’s image is tarnished by child trafficking,” said Kouadio Yeboue Marcellin, deputy police chief in Aboisso.

“We are appealing to all parents. A child’s place is at school and not on plantations,” he said in a statement.

The number of police operations will depend on available funding, said Luc. This one was financed by the office of First Lady Dominique Ouattara, who has championed the cause.

The new action plan was praised by some cocoa industry executives last year for taking a wide-reaching approach to tackling the issue, including through investing in education and empowering women.

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200113151823-3341s/

 

Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya

Screenshot_2020-01-09 Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya
Workers wash millet to prepare it for popping in Embu, Kenya, September 9, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Wesley Langat

EMBU, Kenya,  Two years ago, Michael Gichangi launched a business he hopes will help his rural community better cope with climate change stresses: making puffed cereal from climate-hardy traditional grains.

Using a $1,000 machine he bought, he pops millet – a drought-tolerant grain, but one not as widely eaten as staple maize – and turns it into a popular snack.

Over the last two years he has sold about $1,500 worth of the popped grain, and is the first in the district to have one of the machines, he said.

“I started popping millet to produce very delicious snacks, by mixing it with groundnuts, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon powder and simsim (sesame) oil”, he said.

The combination has won particular approval from students looking for an after-school snack, he said, and is now sold at the local Embu market.

As many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity, climate change is hitting harvests and making life even harder.

But finding new markets for hardy grains that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Gichangi’s effort began when he joined a women-led agribusiness group in his village and started buying and selling traditional cereals such as millet, sorghum and green gram, all more drought-resilient alternatives to maize.

Previously, maize dominated farming in the area – but that dominance is gradually declining as weather extremes linked to climate change make getting a harvest more difficult, he and others said.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop – just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

“Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of … key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals,” he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs – which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail – has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops.

The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet – and getting people to resume eating them – can be a challenge.

Gichangi, an entrepreneur and millet farmer, said he realised that the key to making the new crops pay was adding value to what was harvested – hence the popping machine.

MORE JOBS, MORE RESILIENCE?

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer, he said.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at Gichangi’s small factory.

She said that, besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, “I’m very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop,” she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women’s groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food.

Liz Young, a senior researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute noted in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Africa’s farmers urgently need help to adapt to the threats and grow enough to feed the continent’s rising population.

Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that, Young said.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income “is enough to pay school fees,” she said – and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Gichangi’s millet snacks are slowly gaining ground on traditional favourites such as sugary wheat biscuits, his sales team said.

“It wasn’t easy popularising the products,” admitted Lucy Njeru, one of Gichangi’s saleswomen – though free samples helped.

Now, however, Gichangi has partnered with four local schools and an agricultural show to offer his healthier snacks.

Anthony Sawaya, Embu County’s director of trade and chief executive of the county Investment and Development Corporation, said his office is keen to help innovators like Gichangi access markets.

The county government, for instance, is promoting local foods at nearby and international trade fair exhibitions, he said.

 

Nuns’ retreat house, built by Muslim benefactor, signifies interfaith bond

House
Scripture text adorns a wall of the monastery for the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City, Philippines. Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer whose family has helped the community, constructed a new building for the Carmelite monastery, for free. (Charity Durano)

Zamboanga City, Philippines — A two-story retreat house built by a Muslim benefactor opened a new stream of income for a community of Carmelite nuns in the southern Philippines and is the most visible sign of long-standing ties between the nuns and their Muslim neighbors.

“Without waiting for me to finish the appeal he said that he would build it completely free,” recalled Sr. Mary Agnes Xavier Guillen of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, who meets with visitors from outside the community. She was speaking of Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer with roots in Zamboanga City, and whose family has helped the community of Catholic nuns in various ways. When the St. Teresa Hall next to their chapel needed urgent repairs to its roof, Guillen reached out to Nuño, who offered to construct a completely new building that was completed last year

“We have formed friendships with the Muslims through the years. They come to share their concerns, their problems and to ask for prayers,” said Guillen. She noted the common devotion of Christians and Muslims to Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Zamboanga City, one of the largest cities in the country. (The devotion to La Virgen del Pilar, originally brought by the Spanish colonizers in the 1700s, remains the most popular Marian devotion in the region, where she is revered as a miracle-worker and a guardian.)

“I remembered the kindness and the offer of our old friend to help if we needed anything,” said Guillen, who reached out to Nuño, president and managing director of a Luzon-based construction company known for malls, office and residential buildings.

“Carmel’s presence in Zamboanga is a witness to the value of prayer in the life of everyone, Christians or Muslims,” said Guillen.

Founded in 1956, there are 18 Carmelite nuns who make up the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City. Their average age is over 60 years old, with the youngest member in her 40s. It is one of 23 monasteries of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, or OCD, in the country, seven of which are in the Mindanao region, including the one in Zamboanga City, according to the 2019 Catholic Directory of the Philippines.

For 49-year-old math teacher Ruth Guerrero, “the presence of a Carmelite monastery connotes a kind of spiritual assurance, that is, we have prayer warriors.” Guerrero, who teaches at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University in the city and is a member of the formation team for first-year students, added, “whenever I happen to be around the area or pass by where their monastery is, even without entering their compound, I feel a quiet assurance of serenity.”

Guerrero still remembers how her mother offered prayers at the monastery when Guerrero took her board exams, as well as at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. “The practice has always been there since we believe that is their vocation to devote time for prayer. It’s also like we want to make sure the Lord hears us.”

The Santa Teresa House of Prayer is the second project that Nuño has done for the Carmelite community. According to Guillen, “[Nuño] has expressed to us that building it is an honored privilege for him, one that will bring blessings to him and his family.”

The impetus to initially repair and then build a new retreat house came out of a need for extra space. Guillen said that diocesan and religious priests often ask to stay at the monastery for a retreat but they have had to turn down some requests because they only had two guest rooms.

The new house of prayer means that they can accommodate more priests and members of other religious communities in its seven guest rooms. The open space ground floor can be used by Catholic schools for gatherings for their staff, faculty and students. Guillen adds that it is another source of income for their community.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/people/nuns-retreat-house-built-muslim-benefactor-signifies-interfaith-bond

No time to play: Childhood in Uganda’s biggest refugee settlement

Uganda
Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied child refugees in the world, according to the UNHCR [Portia Crowe/Al Jazeera]

Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, Uganda – Every morning, Rose Inya makes her four younger siblings breakfast and gets them ready for school. In the evenings, the 16-year-old, who is herself still a student, prepares dinner, tends to her vegetable garden, and puts her sisters and brothers to bed.

She assigns them household chores and monitors their homework. When they misbehave, she reprimands them, and when they are sick, she is the one who cares for them.

Inya and her siblings, who are South Sudanese refugees, live alone in Uganda’s sprawling Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. They fled their village of Avumadrichi with their mother in 2016. Their father and eldest brother stayed behind. Six months ago, their mother went back to try to earn some money. They have not heard from her since.

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied child refugees in the world – some 41,200 in 2018 – with the majority less than 15 years old and nearly 3,000 younger than five. Most of them come from South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since December 2013. 

Coping with the inflows of minors is one of many challenges facing the landlocked East African country, which, despite being one of the less-developed nations globally, is the world’s third-largest host of refugees, with some 1.2 million asylum-seekers in 2018.

Many Ugandans were themselves displaced during Idi Amin’s rule in the 1970s and later during an armed campaign by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group. And while Western nations are increasingly shutting their doors to migrants, the UN and the humanitarian community have praised Uganda’s unique hosting model, which allows refugees to work, farm, and study.

But hosting so many vulnerable people comes with challenges for the government, the UNHCR, and partner organisations in the refugee settlements. Unaccompanied children face a unique set of risks, including sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, and even robbery, according to Johnson Ochan Abic of World Vision International, an aid organisation.

Nassa Yangi was 17 when she fled South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to Uganda in May 2017 with seven of her nieces and nephews, the youngest of whom was only four. She cared for the children in the Rhino Camp refugee settlement until she was able to trace her mother, who was some 80 kilometres (48 miles) away in Bidi Bidi, with the help of the Uganda Red Cross.

“I was the mother and the father – I did everything,” she said.

Yangi said she cried when she heard her mother’s voice over the phone. They were reunited in Bidi Bidi in June 2018, after more than a year apart.

But some children will never see their parents again. Agnes Night’s mother was killed by a stray bullet while they were fleeing the South Sudanese town of Morobo together three years ago. Night, 16, now lives in Bidi Bidi with Asiki Emmanuel, a neighbour from her village that she came across on the road to Uganda who agreed to take her in.

Foster families

When children arrive at the settlement alone, the NGOs seek out volunteer foster families from the same tribes who speak their language and share their customs.

Arikanjilo Lodong, 31, has taken in 11 foster children alongside his six biological children since fleeing fighting in South Sudan’s Equatoria region in July 2016. Four of them are siblings he met on the road to Uganda; they continue to live with him today. Of the seven other children he agreed to foster when he arrived in Bidi Bidi, six have since been reunited with their families.

“I miss them, really, I miss them,” he said of those who have been returned to their parents. “Even when I went there [to visit some of them] last year, one girl said she wanted to come [back with me], but her father refused.”

But not all the children are so happy with their foster parents. Taban Joseph, 17, from the South Sudanese town of Magwi, said his foster father “does not love” him.

“He is rude,” Joseph said, noting he does not always let him go out with friends. He also said his caretakers buy school supplies for their biological children but not for him and their other foster children.

World Vision International has about 70 case workers overseeing some 6,000 unaccompanied children in Bidi Bidi. They also rely on a network of volunteer para-social workers, who are refugees themselves and live in the settlement, as well as community-based child protection committees to monitor for signs of abuse.

Before legally signing children over, the UNHCR and partner NGOs check prospective parents’ criminal records and ask community leaders to vet them. The families must also attend training sessions on positive parenting, child abuse, children’s rights, and how to recognise withdrawal and other symptoms of trauma.

Some say the foster families do not do enough.

“The caretakers, what they do is give them food if it is there, give them basic necessities, but when we look at the psychological status of these children, it’s actually not all that well,” said Seme Ludanga Faustino, a South Sudanese refugee who cofounded the organisation I Can South Sudan, which provides music lessons and other social activities for children in Bidi Bidi.

The organisation also aims to forge friendships between children from different ethnic groups.

Stephen Wandu, I Can South Sudan’s co-founder and a well-known singer-songwriter in South Sudan under the stage name Ambassadeur Koko, fled to Uganda in 2016, becoming a refugee for the second time in his life.

He had previously lived in the Central African Republic as a child during the Sudanese civil war. Wandu’s parents divorced when he was young and his father died when he was a teenager, so he understands how it feels to be alone. That is why he felt compelled to help when he heard of the mass influx of South Sudanese children to Uganda.

On a recent Wednesday at the church where the organisation meets, some four dozen children were rehearsing a song about peace they would soon be recording with the Ugandan singer JM Kennedy. A clear leader in the group was Bosco John, a 13-year-old from the South Sudanese city of Yei who wants to be a lawyer when he grows up.

For John, the music sessions are a chance to forget about life as a refugee. He said his mother has mental health issues and his father stayed behind in South Sudan to look after their land. John fled to Uganda in August 2016 with a neighbour, who he continues to live with, but who, he says, gives him too much domestic labour to do. School is tough too – classrooms are overcrowded and lacking in materials.

But John, normally a gravely serious child, completely transforms when he picks up a ukulele. Practising the new song with his friends, suddenly he becomes all confidence and flair.

“When you sing, you’re able to sing out the issue that is torturing you internally,” Ludanga Faustino said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/time-play-childhood-uganda-biggest-refugee-camp-200101080357207.html

 

We gave up Christmas to fight measles in Samoa

measles
DFID/UKEMT

British doctors and nurses are sacrificing a relaxing Christmas with friends and family to help save lives in a deadly measles outbreak on the other side of the world.

The Pacific island of Samoa has been overwhelmed by more than 5,500 cases of the disease.

Seventy-nine people have died, nearly all of them are children under five.

The British medics are working alongside local teams and volunteers from around the world.

“It’s quite something when you see a ward full of people with measles, they look so sick, it’s not something we’re used to,” Dr Rachel Anderson, an A&E consultant in Edinburgh, told the BBC.

“To my knowledge, I’d never seen measles… you feel like you’ve got a bit of catching up to do.”

Rachel was on call with the UK Emergency Medical Team.

The organisation deploys NHS staff to emergencies around the world.

It sent doctors and nurses to tackle diphtheria spreading through Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh last year and to help with the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-15.

Measles led the Samoan government declared a national emergency in November.

Vaccinations were made compulsory, schools were closed and restrictions on public gatherings put in place in an attempt to control the virus.

People have been hanging red flags outside their homes to highlight the fact they have not been vaccinated.

Rachel was asked if she could drop everything for the more than 30-hour trip to Samoa.

“It was a bit tricky because it was over Christmas, I had a couple of days debating it, but felt I should go given the devastating effect measles is having here,” she said.

It means missing Christmas with her husband, stepson and the rest of the family. She was supposed to be cooking dinner for 15. The Manchester City fan also had to give up tickets to two football matches over the festive period.

She said: “I’ve had the odd moment when jet-lagged and overwhelmed seeing all these children, but most of me is glad I’m here.

“My husband and are family very supportive, they’d have been surprised if I had not gone.”

Rachel is one of 13 members of the UK Emergency Medical Team currently in Samoa.

James Daley, an A&E nurse with Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust, also got the call and decided to go.

“The tree was up, there were presents to buy and then the call comes in and it throws everything up in the air.

“It’s excitement initially, then a little bit of trepidation sinks in that it’s for three weeks and you’re gone over Christmas.”

He was planning a nice family break in Glasgow with his girlfriend.

“It was the first year in the last few that I had Christmas off… my girlfriend had two days of silence, but she was all right with it in the end.”

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50813227

Farmers in Zimbabwe facing severe droughts, hunger crisis, CRS says

FoodYoung girl in Zimbabwe. Credit: milosk50 / Shutterstock

.- As severe drought conditions continue in Zimbabwe, close to 7 million people are facing food shortages, a Catholic aid agency warned this week.

“Families have run out of options to put food on their tables,” said Dorrett Byrd, Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) regional director for Southern Africa.

With repeated droughts over the past five years, many of Zimbabwe’s small farmers have found themselves unable to feed their families. The United Nations estimates that nearly half of the 16 million people in the country are urgently in need of food aid, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network ranks the country as experiencing a “Phase 3 food crisis,” signifying widespread acute malnutrition.

The droughts have increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change, Byrd said. In addition to widespread crop failure, inflation has decimated many families’ savings.

Byrd warned that the struggle to find food has led many young people to leave the country, adding, “Migrating parents often leave their young children behind with grandparents who struggle to provide for them.”

Catholic Relief Services is working with farmers in Zimbabwe to teach soil and water conservation methods. The agency is also offering drought-resistant crops to farmers and is cooperating with the government in a notification system warning farmers about threats to their harvest.

Even with these steps, however, Byrd warned that more action needs to be taken in order for the people of Zimbabwe to recover.

Other countries in the region are also facing an escalating hunger crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that more than 45 million people in Southern Africa are currently faced with food insecurity.

“This area of the world needs help and it needs help now,” Byrd said. “We hope the economic situation improves soon, but if climate change is not addressed, countries like Zimbabwe will continue to suffer.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/farmers-in-zimbabwe-facing-severe-droughts-hunger-crisis-crs-says-56240