We creation care advocates, we’re pretty sure of ourselves, aren’t we? Let’s face it. We’ve listened to the National Academy of Sciences. We’ve read the research on global changes. We know all the “parts-per-million” data. We’ve seen the melting glaciers, and the shrinking ice cover. We know about sea levels, ocean acidification, and runaway species extinctions.
But let’s face it: most people out there aren’t nearly as alarmed as we’re pretty sure they ought to be. After all, some say, scientists have been wrong before, no?
Then we talk to field workers on the ground, as we did yesterday in Nairobi. World Renew leaders in Kenya told us story after story of escalating climate shocks and related human suffering. It’s pretty credible stuff, and deeply alarming. But still, NGOs are in the crisis business, aren’t they? Maybe they’re dressing things up a bit for the visitors from North America?
So today, we got a totally different perspective, and I hope you’ll stick around to hear it. We took a long, muddy bus ride to one of the 300 churches in the Mount Kenya South Diocese of the Anglican Church here. Where I come from, Anglican churches are all granite and stained glass. This one, home to a rural Kikuyu congregation, let the daylight shine in through plastic panels in a rusted tin roof. It was pretty humble, to my Western eyes. But I thought it was a perfectly lovely place.
More lovely still, however, were the 17 Kikuyu women who run farms in the Diocese, and who had put their busy farm lives on hold to teach a few North Americans about the new challenges they face – trying to raise food in a broken climate system. Adorned in brilliant dresses and head scarves of every color, they told us their stories. We promised them we’d tell them again back home. Here are a few, based on my scribbled notes:
- Isabelle: There used to be two planting seasons in the year. One was longer, and we called it the “lablab bean season.” The other was shorter, and it was called the “millet season.” But now, we don’t have any planting seasons. We only plant when we see the rain. We used to be sure of the harvest, but not anymore. You plant, but you don’t have a harvest.
- Sarah: Last year, we planted, but we never harvested – except for a few beans and potatoes. We are confused. Water is a problem for us.
- Grace Dodo: We used to fill a granary plus more stored outside. Now, we can’t even fill the granary. The rains have changed, and the soil has been depleted.
- Eleanor: Pests and diseases have increased. I’m not very old, but spider mites were never here before. When the spider mites come, we don’t get a crop. The pests force us to sell crops earlier than before.
- Another woman: We always talk to each other about the rain. You can’t depend on the short rain anymore. Thank God for the technology.
The technology? That’s right. These women aren’t just taking what this harsh new world is dishing out. Others will tell this story better than I – but with the help of World Renew, Care of Creation, and others, the farmers are adopting “Farming God’s Way” – what we’d call conservation agriculture. They mix crops together in the same plot, heavily mulch their fields with leaves and branches to conserve moisture and suppress weeds, plant with minimal disturbance to the soil, add manure and wood ash to enrich the soil, plant under-crops to enhance fertility, and maintain trees to shade crops from excess heat. Some have bought into Farming God’s Way entirely, and others are testing plots side-by-side to see for themselves.
They’re remarkably resourceful people, and they’re doing everything possible to feed their families. But the changing climate is making it awfully hard.
And there’s another irony: Here in this tin-roofed country church, the topic of climate change isn’t even slightly controversial. It’s not a debate. It’s staring them in the face everywhere. It’s a fact. But almost every one among our company of Westerners knows that in our churches back home, you talk this way at your own risk.
But now, we’re talking. We promised these Kenyan women that we would. And maybe you’ll find a way to join the conversation? Maybe an African family farmer is what Jesus would call “my neighbor?” Things are changing, and to us, it’s clear that we’re deeply involved.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.