With increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and rising temperatures the new normal, climate change is a growing reality for the 73 rural communities across Africa that we are working with. Subsistence farmers are particularly vulnerable to this escalating climate variability.
“Climate models predict that climate change will lead to warmer temperatures, increasing rainfall variability, and increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events.” (Thorlakson and Neufeldt, 2012)
Climate change is clearly a significant challenge for all our community partners and so we are actively pursuing projects that will improve the ability of these communities to respond to the changes that they are being faced with. Interventions like localised climate-wise agriculture, small-scale water harvesting hold the key to climate-resilient communities.
Africa Foundation is currently working with 23 communities in the Mpumalanga Province, bordering the famous Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Mpumalanga means ‘place where the sun rises’. This province is home to over 4 million people.
These communities are characterised by significant levels of unemployment, limited formal employment, and many vulnerable children due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Statistics show that even though there is a wide range of socio-economic status, most households are generally impoverished, with youth being the predominant population sector.
These factors have a direct bearing on all aspects of community development. Projects focused on water access and food production are integral to building the climate resilience of these communities.
In South Africa’s rural communities, Early Childhood Development and Home-based Care Centres play a critical role in the care of young children who are vulnerable to malnutrition, poorer developmental outcomes and compromised academic performance.
These centres have therefore been a focus point for Africa Foundation from the outset. In addition to skills development and infrastructure support projects, climate wise food gardens are being established at 16 of these centres, providing invaluable working models for future expansion.
Specific crops are being selected, and seedlings purchased to provide balanced nutritional value. These included starches like maize, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and beets, along with greens such as chard, local spinach and cabbage. These long-term food gardens will support children attending these crèches for generations to come
Planting and maintaining a food garden would be quite impossible without a reliable water supply. Where needed, boreholes are being repaired or drilled, fresh water access points are being created and Hippo Water Rollers are being provided to enable the easy collection, transport and storage of clean water.
Meet Richard Sibisi, a local hero.
Mr Sibisi established Ikusasalethu Creche in KwaNibela community in 2016. Mr Sibisi started the garden in order to supplement the daily food cooked and served at Ikusasalethu creche, choosing specific crops to provide balanced nutrition to these children who are vulnerable to malnutrition.
With the onset of the COVID-19 restrictions, the resilience of our rural communities across Africa was sorely tested. The value of the existing food garden and water projects was a shining light, but these pockets of resilience were simply not enough to counter the effects of the pandemic. Food parcels were identified as a necessary short-term intervention to prevent many households descending into poverty and starvation. In consultation with local tribal authorities, the neediest households were identified to receive food relief in each region.
The “Seeds of purpose” project, which included the distribution of food items, vegetable seeds and growing compost, is a proven example that addressed both the immediate food insecurities of Mpumalanga communities and their long term resilience.
Food parcels dispensed in Southern Africa.
Rural clinics in all regions assisted.
Schools or pre-schools supported.
Bore-holes repaired or drilled.
Hippo water rollers funded.
Veggie garden starter packs.
South Africa: Vegetable Gardens hold the promise of greater food security.
Seeds are an important food source and more – they represent an important forward step in building community resilience which is our ultimate goal.
Taking the COVID-19 learnings into account and factoring in the realities of climate change, it is clear that focused expansion of food gardens and water projects will be integral to building community resilience. We continue to work closely with community leadership structures on developing sustainable initiatives which will improve food security in the future.
Rose is a Yes4Youth intern teacher based at A Hi Kuriseni Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in the rural village of Lillydale, Mpumalanga. Her touching story is an example of how this youth development programme dovetails with the accelerated expansion of other initiatives like our Climate-Resilient Communities.
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