In the UK we tend to associate climate change with low energy light bulbs and unseasonal weather. In rural Africa, the impacts are much more critical. When your food comes from your back garden, and saving enough money for seeds involves scraping together whatever small savings you can over the year, it really matters what the weather does.
Rains and droughts
Deciding when to plant your seeds can mean gambling the lives of your family. Ideally you want to plant them before the rains come so they have the best chance of survival, but recently the rains have not come when they used to, or they come and then only last a few days. That is the worst because the seeds germinate and start to grow but then dry out and die because there is no water for irrigation.
Tackle the challenges
Sam Lacey, the Researcher for the Co-operatives for Development (CFD) team, recently spent two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania, learning about how people are starting to find ways to come together to tackle the environmental challenges they face.
She met numerous groups who have come together to protect a local spring or reservoir and have set up village committees to make sure everyone gets fair access to the little water that is available. In some cases, these groups have been so successful that the local farmers have started to produce excess crops and are now looking for ways to get them to market.
Several of the Water Users Groups have even come together to form a marketing co-operative and to organise other projects, for example setting up a tree nursery to help replant trees that have been chopped down for firewood.
Sam said: “It’s amazing to see the determination and innovation of some of these communities when faced with such overwhelming challenges to simply find enough water to drink and to keep their crops alive.”
Samantha’s research will be published by summer 2010 and will be available on the Co-operatives for Development website.