Monday, February 22, 2010

Climate Justice - A Lenten Journey of Discovery

Climate Change and Food Security – A Story

Written by Mary Minette, Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy, andDavid Creech, Director for Hunger EducationEvangelical Lutheran Church in America

He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous.- Isaiah 30:23

In the small community of Las Jolotas, Nicaragua, subsistence farmers like Felicita and her son Ariel are already facing the impacts of climate change. Ever since Hurricane Mitch devastated western Nicaragua in 1998, rainfall patterns have grown increasingly unpredictable. Some years the rains fall late; other years the rains fall too hard, and there is no way to predict what type of year it will be. If the rains arrive late, seeds die without producing any harvest. If the rains cause flooding, seeds are swept away.

Farmers in Las Jolotas traditionally save just enough seeds from the previous harvest to plant during the next rainy season. If those seeds are lost, the results are devastating. Farmers may have to borrow money at high rates to purchase more seeds for planting, and may have to take on additional work to pay the loans back. Some farmers have stopped planting during the rainy season, choosing instead to migrate to El Salvador, Costa Rica, or even the United States to look for work. Family members left behind struggle to keep food on the table and children in school while their land lies fallow.

To support Felicita and her family as they try to adapt to the effects of climate change, The Lutheran World Federation - working with the Faith and Hope Lutheran Church of Nicaragua - helped them dig a shallow well. The water from the well is gravity-fed to irrigate crops during the dry season. Thanks to the well and Felicita's hard work, her lush garden - full of beans, corn, squash, tomatoes, and yucca - thrives in the middle of the dry summer months. Felicita will use the garden to feed her family and small farm animals. If there are leftover vegetables, she will sell them for added income.

The well protects Felicita and her family from uncertain weather patterns. In turn, the increased food security ensures that they will have enough to eat and will not have to migrate to faraway places, disrupting and perhaps ending Ariel's schooling and leaving their culture and community behind.

Solutions like this will need to be joined with other, much larger efforts, if subsistence farmers around the world are to adjust to the impacts of climate change that are already occurring. International development agencies are working hard to adapt to and address this new reality, but significant aid from governments and international agencies will be needed to ensure that families like Felicita's are able to survive and thrive as the earth's climate continues to change.

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