Sitting under a tree to shelter from the relentless sun, Mary speaks about her worries.
She speaks slowly and softly, choosing her words carefully.
It’s about the rain, she explains. They don’t get much of it anymore in her village in southern Malawi, and when it doesn’t rain they can’t grow crops.
Mary Belo (left) and her friend Emily Nota on their drought-affected land in southern Malawi. Almost three million people in Malawi are experiencing food shortages due to the lack of rain.
The rain used to arrive each November and last until February, but over the last few years it hasn’t come until December, sometimes even January, and when it does come it lasts only a few weeks.
The fact that we are sheltering under a tree tells its own story: this is supposed to be the rainy season in Malawi but there are bright blue skies and it is almost 40 degrees Celsius.
This is the practical reality of climate change: farming people in one of Africa’s poorest countries going hungry while they wait for the sky to give them water.
“Climate change has really affected us,” says Mary. “I often wonder what the future will be like for my children. I have so many pressures in my life. Climate change has brought so many problems on us.”
The lack of water is the single biggest driver of hunger throughout the developing world. As rain patterns change, people like Mary who are reliant on the rain to grow food are facing increasingly long periods of hunger.
Almost three million people in Malawi are currently experiencing food shortages due to drought. In Ethiopia, the figure is over eight million.
Trócaire has installed a water pump into Mary’s village. The pump means that the people there have access to clean drinking water all year round, instead of being forced to walk several miles to get dirty water from the local river.
The pump is a life-line for them. Even during the current drought, they have managed to carry water from the pump to near-by fields, allowing some crops to grow. But the fields far away from the pump stay dry and lifeless.
“The water pump has really changed our lives,” says Mary. “Before it was installed we had to get all our water from the local river and there were lots of diseases but now we have clean water in the village. It has made a really big difference for us.”
Children using the Trócaire-installed water pump in Mary's village in southern Malawi. "“The water pump has really changed our lives," says Mary.
Solving these water crises involves local and global action.
On the local side, Trócaire can continue to install water pumps and irrigation systems, while also training communities on soil management techniques that retain water most effectively.
You can support this work by buying the Gift of Water this Christmas. This simple gift will allow us to deliver clean, reliable water to people like Mary who are living through drought.
On the global level, we need political action to combat climate change. The temperatures in Malawi have risen by almost one degree Celsius since 1960 but under current projections they are expected to rise by up to five, and perhaps even six, degrees by the end of this century. It is difficult to see how anybody could continue to live in villages like Mary’s under such a situation.
Join us and add your voice to the calls to make our world safe.
Buy a Trócaire Gift this Christmas to help families in the developing world. Order online or by phoning 1850 408 408 (ROI) or 0800 912 1200 (NI)