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Nyarai Zirugo of Zimbabwe. Photo by David Brazier
Nyarai Zirugo of Zimbabwe. Photo by David Brazier

Harvest of Hope

Tuesday July 9

Christian Aid introduce their harvest campaign, which focuses on helping people to adapt to the climate crisis.

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree,’ Mark 4: 30–32.

Never is the story of the mustard seed more relevant than at harvest time when, as Christians, we celebrate nature’s provision and consider how we can fulfil our responsibility to care for the planet.

Around the world, extreme weather, often attributed to climate change, is causing billions of pounds of damage to homes, communities and livelihoods. And until more is done to move away from fossil fuels and to support lower-income countries to cope with climate disasters, vulnerable communities are left counting the cost.

This harvest time, many thousands of families are praying for relief from endless drought, devastating floods or severe storms. They are praying for their crops to grow and their children to have full stomachs.

But there is hope.

Alongside its local partners, Christian Aid is working to find the most sustainable ways – from installing new equipment, to planting smaller, hardier crops – to support people facing the climate crisis.

People like Nyarai Zirugo, from Zimbabwe. She and her family are farmers but they faced a complex battle to make a living – or even grow enough food to feed themselves - often living hand to mouth after years of drought decimated crops.

Traditional agricultural practices are becoming increasingly ineffective in the face of extreme weather events and changing climates, and experienced and resilient farmers like Nyarai are finding they need to learn new skills and even consider other avenues of creating a livelihood.

Nyarai’s determination to provide a secure future for her family led her to undertake a programme, funded by Christian Aid, and run by local partners.

She said: “One of the main things we got was improved knowledge. We learnt how to put in place measures to prepare for unpredictable situations.”

Nyarai learnt how to sustainably harvest many of the wild plants which grow in the hills and forests surrounding her home. Some of these improve her family’s nutrition, while others are dried in a special machine, ready for sale at market.

With the profits, the family bought goats for their farm, as well as groceries, crockery and blankets. Nyarai also learnt about climate smart agriculture, helping her family to grow a wider range of grains and legumes.

Nyarai summed up the impact of the project saying: “We’ve seen our livelihoods, diet and farming methods improve greatly; we are better able to sustain ourselves even when droughts hit.”

Grace Mugebe is the Zimbabwe program manager for Christian Aid. She said currently the country is experiencing the worst drought it has seen for more than 40 years – brought about by El-Nino, the term which describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific.

She added: “The work Christian Aid and its partners have done has been instrumental in improving the livelihoods of more than 27,000 smallholder famers. The programme was very important because of its comprehensive approach touching on the different aspects of human and community development.”

Nyarai said she also saw changes in her community. “People adapted by using the climate-smart farming methods, and have food and economic security,” she explained. “Women are becoming more independent and incidences of gender-based violence have been reduced. Working in groups also brought the community together, helping us learn how to work
together. The community has been empowered through knowledge.”

Programmes like this are only possible with the help of supporters.

This harvest time, Christian Aid is asking people to give, act and pray so that more long-term projects around the world can be set up.

Christian Aid’s Harvest of Hope is all about coming together to celebrate the joy of creation and stand in solidarity with vulnerable communities.

All kinds of online resources are available to enable supporters to hold church services or harvest suppers. There are even download-and-print activity placemats and a recipe for a tagine. You could also organise a church collection – either in-person or digitally, or plan a fundraising challenge.

Money raised will help fund the kind of programmes which offer specialist training to people like Nyarai: £60 could pay for sessions which support a family to adapt their farming practice and grow a crop which survives extreme weather, and £100 could be the investment someone needs to start a new climate-resilient farming business.