Beauty is no stranger to drought, but this season has been one of the worst in almost a decade. She and her husband work all day under the boiling Zimbabwean sun, but their backbreaking efforts just aren’t enough. The ground is dry and dusty. It hasn’t rained in months.
Beauty and her husband are hardworking farmers living in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo region. They rely on the land to grow food and to earn a living. Some nights, Beauty can’t sleep for thinking about how she’s going to feed her children. The terrible drought that has ravaged her country has destroyed her fields and left her unable to grow enough food.
“Living becomes very difficult, because when there is no food, life becomes tough,” said Beauty.
Climate change has wreaked havoc on the weather, making it harder for farmers like Beauty and her husband to plant crops at the right time and to have enough water for them to grow properly. Lower rainfall and rising temperatures mean traditional farming techniques are no longer working, and for many farmers, crops have failed for the third year in a row.
Devastating food shortages and extreme hunger are what follow most failed crop harvests. Without enough food to get them to the next harvest, life becomes an uphill battle for many families. As a mother, the aching hunger and desire to send her children to school has even driven Beauty to beg for money.
“During drought even school fees is very difficult to source, I have to work casual jobs to be able to buy soap or beg for supplies,” she said.
And while many families rely on government food aid to survive, there isn’t enough to reach everyone who needs it. Some families just miss out. The only help Beauty’s family gets comes in the form of occasional government food handouts, but there’s never enough to go around. Every time she looks out over her parched farm plot, she feels despair welling up.
“My major challenge is food shortage. If I don’t get enough food I have to spend most of my time away from my family looking for casual labour, that’s how tough it gets,” said Beauty.
With unemployment levels in Zimbabwe at time reach close to 90%, there is never any guarantee Beauty can find enough to buy food. Sadly Beauty’s children, like so many others in Zimbabwe, are already malnourished.
Jessina, another farmer in the district, once felt despair just like Beauty’s. She too was no longer able to grow enough in her fields to support her family, and remembers the bad times only too well.
“Before… life was very difficult for us. We used to practice traditional farming and we did not get much out of it. I felt very bad because I could only feed my family once a day. It pained me so much,” said Jessina.
Just when she was about to give up hope, Jessina was visited by a field coordinator for Act for Peace’s partner, Christian Care, who offered to teach her a new way of farming much better suited to the cycle of drought and low rainfall that Zimbabwe is now experiencing. Called conservation farming, it involves new techniques like digging individual pits for each corn plant and covering the ground with mulch to keep the water from evaporating.
These simple but revolutionary techniques changed everything for Jessina.
“In the first year of practicing conservation farming I was so thrilled and happy with the yield on my small plot. I could see a very brighter future for me and my family,” she said beaming.
After one year, Jessina not only had enough maize to feed her family, but she was able to sell the excess and purchase a goat, which she then bred. She has turned her plot from a barely fertile wasteland to a thriving farm. Since the harvest from her fields has gone up, Jessina can now send her children to school.
“In the second year I worked hard and my harvest was very good. I managed to pay school fees for all my children and I also bought them new clothes for Christmas. I’m now in my third year, and I have many goats, turkeys, guinea fowl and chickens,” she said.
Jessina knows that even though this year’s crop will not be as bountiful as the last because of the current drought, she’ll be able to manage thanks to the techniques she’s learnt.
“Conservation farming helped me a lot because right now I have many livestock, even if I don’t harvest much from my plot, I can always sell some of my livestock and buy food.”
Jessina is proud of how self-sufficient she is, and how much she’s achieved through her own hard work and the use of the new conservation farming techniques.
“I feel very proud and happy. I now have my own food and means to survive. I hope my children will learn from me what I have learnt so that they have an improved life.”
It is thanks to the generous gifts of compassionate Christmas Bowl supporters all across Australia that farmers like Jessina have been trained conservation farming. With the methods Act for Peace’s partners teach, and the right seeds and equipment they are able to provide, farmers can double the amount of food they can grow on their land, ensuring a healthy and sustainable future for their family.
“I want to thank Australians for bringing this program to us. May the Lord bless them,” Jessina said with a huge smile.
Jessina is so grateful to have joined the conservation farming program. But there are still so many farmers like Beauty who are still using the old techniques and struggling to grow enough food to feed their children. And as the drought continues, the situation is only getting worse. Without being able to learn conservation farming the way Jessina did, the future for Beauty’s family looks grim.
Your generous gifts to the Christmas Bowl appeal can help Zimbabwean families facing severe hunger learn conservation farming so they can always have enough to eat.
Please give to the Christmas Bowl today by visiting www.actforpeace.org.au/christmasbowl or calling 1800 025 101.
Your gifts saved lives last Christmas Bowl
In a world where too many people are facing pain, suffering and injustice, supporting the Christmas Bowl appeal is still an essential act of compassion, just as it has been since its humble beginnings in 1949.
Last year, your generous gifts to the Christmas Bowl helped to bring clean water, soap and toilets to South Sudanese refugees living in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. When Act for Peace first traveled to Akula, conditions in the camp were desperate and people were dying from Hepatitis E, an easily preventable disease. Thanks to the generous support of people just like you, these simple solutions have transformed the camp, and there have been no more reported deaths from Hepatitis E.
This year we are hoping that the combined effort of churches and compassionate people like you all around Australia will make a huge difference to the lives of Zimbabwean famers facing severe hunger, and other people around the world facing dreadful hardship and suffering.