By Thea deGroot
This February, my husband, Art and I had the privilege of participating in a Tanzania tour with Farm Radio International, a Canadian charity supporting broadcasters in developing countries to strengthen small-scale farming and rural communities providing impact programming, broadcaster resources and training.
We had never been to Africa before so it was an eye-opening experience. One of the highlights of the trip was the two hour session with a women’s listening group. This was a group of women that had already formed a small micro-lending co-op and then added the listening together to the weekly farm broadcast. Farm Radio provided them with a small solar radio and they would gather once a week to listen to the program and discuss together how to use that knowledge in their own farming efforts.
The women shared a bit about their everyday lives, their names and their families as we asked questions of them and they of us. This group was in an area of Tanzania that was near Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro and was beginning to suffer increasing drought. The short rains had not come in 2016 as was usual in November and December and they were now desperately awaiting the long rains of the rainy season from March to May.
This year, the women were not able to grow greens to feed their families from November to the end of February due to lack of rain and water in the rivers and streams. Since they also don’t have the resources to store perishable food or prepare them for winter storage the meals during these months consisted of beans and rice. Of course, that means more children lack the needed nutrients for growing bodies and remain stunted and undernourished.
Later we also had the opportunity to meet the Tanzanian agriculture minister and when asked about Tanzania and climate change his sole answer was: “It is eating us.”
While here in Canada we experienced another warmish winter and were grateful not to shovel snow and to have relatively good driving conditions, climate change does not favour those who live in the southern parts of the world, particularly in Africa. Climate change does impact Canada in added costs for flooding, fire, and the consequences of severe weather. In some parts of Africa and the global south it means having to raise a family on a less than adequate diet, watching your children die and ultimately shorten your own life.
Art and I were directly confronted with that reality in our travels in Tanzania when we met with local farmers, the World Vegetable Center staff, Canada’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, an elementary school principal and his students whose academic performance had greatly increased when the school added a nutrition program, travel guides, servers and as we drove through a country-side of herders whose flocks were ranging wide areas in order to find sustenance. Now being back in Canada, we are painfully reminded that our choices here in the developed west impact the entire globe to the detriment of the human population. May we be wise in our individual choices but also in speaking up for the world’s most vulnerable peoples. The time for silence, convenience and acceptance is over.
I would invite you and your community to use this time of Lent to both pledge individual climate action and call for a more far-reaching national climate policy.
Check out the Give it Up for the Earth campaign, organized by Citizens for Public Justice. This is a campaign to help faith communities participate in a meditative and concrete practice to minimize our impact on the environment and to make healthy and hopeful community endeavors to shrink our environmental footprint and give all of God’s creatures cleaner air and water.
May we always honour the realities of life of our southern neighbours and be caretakers of the creation in which God has placed us.
Thea deGroot is a citizen of Sarnia, Ont., a board member of Citizens for Public Justice, and a supporter of Farm Radio International