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Stories from a changing climate

Climate change affects people. Currently, it is affecting poor and vulnerable communities that we work with around the world. Meet some of the people we work with, and hear first-hand how changing weather patterns and extreme weather has unfairly affected their lives.

Stories from a changing climate

Many communities we work with around the world are being unfairly affected by climate change. Now it's time to hear their stories.

Gerardo and Jovita Amantillo from Leyte Island in the Philippines

Gerardo and Jovita Amantillo on Leyte Island in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

Gerardo Amantillo (74) and Jovita Amantillo (74) from Basey, a coastal region of Leyte island close to Tacloban. When water rushed into their home, Gerardo and Jovita were swept out of the house and had to grab onto a neighbour’s roof for safety. They clung to the roof for two hours until the storm eased.

It only took a few seconds to destroy a lifetime's work.

Gerardo and Jovita Amantillo were both at home when Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8th, 2013. The couple, both aged 74, had been warned that a bad storm was on its way but nothing had prepared them for the intensity of what they faced.

The winds had been battering their home for several hours when suddenly the waves crashed down all around them, destroying their home and leaving Gerardo and Jovita fighting for their lives.

The strength of the waves carried Gerardo and Jovita out of their home. The survived only by clinging to the neighbour’s roof – almost three metres off the ground.

"We held on to the roof," says Gerardo. "The only reason the roof was not blown away was because there were so many of us lying on it. After around two hours the winds died down and the water receded. Our house was completely gone."

Miraculously, they received only superficial wounds to their legs but were otherwise unharmed. However, sitting on Ormoc pier waiting for a boat to take them off Leyte island, which was the worst affected region of the Philippines, the couple has just one small bag of possessions. Everything else was lost.

"We stayed with neighbours for a few nights but we plan on living with our son for the next few months,” says Gerardo. “I do not know when we will be able to move back."

Across the Philippines over 4 million people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. Approximately 400,000 are living in evacuation centres, with the rest sheltering with friends or family.

Trócaire is offering shelter and food to people who lost their homes, but also rebuilding affected areas so Gerardo and Jovita can look forward to the day when they can return home.

Mechu Dayo from southern Ethiopia

Mechu Dayo working on her farm in Ethiopia

Mechu Dayo (40) working on her farm in in southern Ethiopia. Years of drought meant that Mechu used to struggle to feed her children.

In the village of Tisho Kebele in southern Ethiopia, Mechu Dayo woke each morning not knowing whether she would have enough food to feed her children that day.

“Drought has been so severe and I didn’t have enough flour to bake to feed my children,” she said. “I had to prepare a very thin porridge just for them to feel something in their stomach and survive the day.”

Like many people in the region, Mechu (40) had relied on cattle farming, but regular droughts were making it more difficult to raise livestock. A Trócaire project gave 170 families in the area the skills and tools to begin growing vegetables.

Thanks to the project, Mechu believes that hunger will be a thing of the past for her family.

“Previously when I went to the market and saw cabbage, I would want to buy for my kids but I could not afford it,” she says. “Now I am able to grow it and then feed my children. I am also making money out of it.  Feeding my children and having left with plenty for the market is a big change for me.”

As well as helping local farmers to grow vegetables, the project also improved water supply and irrigation in the area. New wells and irrigation methods have helped the people to cope with the extended periods of drought that have sadly become a regular feature of life for people in the area.

“I don’t think I will face major problems again,” Mechu says confidently. “I can still grow vegetables even if there is no rain. I will be able to bring water on a donkey from a well. The project has helped me reach this stage out of nothing.

I am very happy. If I had money I would send the supporters a gift, but now I am sending my big round of applause.”

The Muyeye family from central Malawi

Enestina from Dedza, Malawi

Enestina (9) from Dedza, Malawi, makes the 1 kilometer round trip every morning to fetch water for their family of five. Enestina started carrying water when she was six years old and knows that it’s mapped into her future whether she likes it or not.

It’s 5am in Kanyera village, central Malawi, and the first thing on everyone’s mind is water.

Eliyeta Muyeye (32) and her daughter, Enestina (9), make the one kilometer round trip every morning to fetch water for their family of six. When they get there, there is usually up to six people waiting in line. As heat and dust sweeps over Kanyera, Eliyeta and Enestina return to home two hours later, laden with their precious cargo.

"I don’t like carrying water,” says Enestina. “It’s very far and it’s heavy to carry. I have neck pains. When I have to get water in the morning, there is a queue so I wait and I am late for school. I love school but I didn’t do well in my exams. I’ve been failing because I didn’t know how to read and write. The time I spend getting water would be better used to study."

Kanyera is at the epicentre of the global water crisis. Every day these women and children carry the weight of this crisis from the trickling Kamboni river to their homes, back and forth.

"Life is hard here because we have difficulty with water,” says Stephen Muyeye (38), Eliyeta’s husband. “The water we drink is contaminated. It’s not clean. It’s not treated. It’s where animals drink and even pass waste – dogs, pigs, goats all drink from the water.

"If we drink it we get sick. We go to the hospital and they tell us that we have dysentery from drinking the water. The hospital gives us medication and it takes a week to work. But it’s difficult to cure as we go back and drink the same water, so we can’t ever say that we are cured."

And it’s not just drinking water that’s affected. The water crisis has caused a perennial food crisis.

Stephen and Eliyeta farm a ½ acre of land growing sweet potatoes, maize, and tomatoes. They have no irrigation system and rely entirely on the rain and adjacent river to water the crops. Inevitably, their one annual harvest only feeds them for seven months, leaving a hungry period of five long months.

"Between November and March we have no food," says Stephen. "We work on other people’s land as labourers during this time. We get paid maize, sometimes a tin, sometimes a bag.

I know it’s something to do with climate change. We don’t have enough rain water."

Thiga Nanyaga from central Kenya

Thiga Nanyaga Kenya

Thiga Nanyaga is still getting used to seeing green fields again.

The 65-year-old farmer has lived his whole life in a village near the town of Chuka, Tharaka-Nithi County, eastern Kenya, but increased drought over recent years was making it more difficult to survive.

Farmers in this region have traditionally relied on two rainy seasons each year. With no other way of getting water to their land, the rain was vital if crops were to grow. When the rains came, farmers could grow enough food to sustain their families through the dry period. When the rains did not come, however, people went hungry.

"We had to wait for the rain for our crops to grow," explains Thiga. "The rains are disappearing so it was getting more difficult every year. Life was very hard. We experienced hunger very often."

Thiga, who lives with his wife, Alice, and their two young children, received a lifeline earlier this year when his farm was connected to a Trócaire-funded irrigation project which brings water directly from a river to over 1,400 farms in the area. The irrigation project means that people are no longer reliant on the rain for their crops.

"The irrigation has made a big difference," he says, proudly displaying his thriving crops. “We don't have to wait for the rain any more so we can plant all year round. We are growing crops throughout the year."

The irrigation project has transformed this community. However, across Kenya millions of farmers are still reliant on rain to grow crops. With rains becoming more erratic and less predictable, hunger is on the rise.

"The rains are getting less by the year," says Thiga. "When I was young there was plenty of rain but not anymore. It is going to be very difficult for people who do not have irrigation. I do not know how they will continue."

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