Considering climate change on Earth Day 2023
Learn how climate change is impacting families around the world
Pictured above: Flooding in Bangladesh
When is Earth Day 2023?
This year, Earth Day is on Saturday 22 April 2023. The theme is Invest In Our Planet.
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day roots go back to the 1970s. In 2009 the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.
Earth Day is an opportunity for us to think about our actions to protect the planet for future generations. Whether you recycle religiously, avoid plastics or plant trees, you’re probably trying to do your bit for our planet. Earth Day 2023 is an ideal moment to take stock and see how others – including World Vision – are making a difference.
The big picture
The impact of climate change is different depending on where you live. Sadly, for some families, climate change is forcing them to flee from home. There are over 100 million people – 36 million children – who have been displaced because of climate change, conflict and natural disasters like earthquakes.
In this article, we are sharing some real stories of families around the world and the different ways they have been affected by climate change.
The prolonged drought in Kenya
In Kenya, people are facing their sixth consecutive rainy season with no rain – the longest in recorded history.
Millions of children and their families are affected by the lack of water - as cattle die, crops fail, and people face a daily struggle just to find enough food to survive. The prolonged drought in Kenya is part of a wider hunger crisis in East Africa.
Though thankfully not yet forced to flee from home, the prolonged droughts are impacting families like Sidi’s.
They faced many challenges
Sitting by her mud-thatched house, where she lives with her husband and ten children, she recalls that 16 years ago life was good. "The rains were regular, so we were able to get bumper harvests from our farms for eating at home and also selling."
But things changed after 2007. She noticed the increase in temperatures, which kept rising in the area over the years. There was insufficient rainfall and perennial droughts that, according to Sidi, never seem to go away. "The long dry spells have made it impossible for us to grow crops, yet agriculture is our main source of livelihood here. At first, we decided to switch to charcoal business. This seemed a viable option as we had trees all over. So, we would cut them and use the wood to make charcoal for selling," she says.
However, the increased charcoal burning led to the rapid destruction of forests. Within a short period, the land was left bare. The droughts intensified. It was hard for the community to see the connection between their activities, and the environmental and agricultural challenges they were facing.
"The heat from the sun has become unbearable. It has dried our water, killed our livestock and prevented our crops from flourishing. Nowadays, I am forced to look for manual job opportunities. On the days I get nothing, my heart breaks as I know my children will sleep hungry," she says.
These difficulties are pushing many children in the region into child labour as they help their families survive, herding cattle for well-off families or breaking rocks in search of gemstones in mine fields.
"The perennial droughts have made me poor with nothing to survive on. I live with so much guilt, feeling that I have failed my children," says Sidi. "I fear for my girls as without school they will remain powerless and at risk of early pregnancies or forced marriage as people seek to take advantage of their vulnerability. The boys too, may be tempted to engage in unlawful practices such as crime to survive."
Regeneration in Uganda
One way World Vision is supporting communities is to enable people to learn new skills in smart agriculture. In Uganda, this work is not just helping hungry families, it’s helping refugees who don’t even have a home to call their own.
“I used to cut down trees indiscriminately. I was naïve,” says 40-year-old Rashid, a resident of a refugee-hosting community in Bidibidi. After learning about the importance of protecting and managing trees from a World Vision-trained friend, the father of five got involved in Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in his community.
“I have doubled my yields since I started regenerating trees and shrubs in my gardens. I want to share my experience with others, not just keep it to myself,” he says.
FMNR is an easy, low-cost way for farmers to increase the number of trees in the fields from rootstock or seeds dispersed through animal manure. Rashid sees FMNR of great value both for the environment and the community, which has seen several deforestation and degradations partly attributed to the South Sudan refugee influx.
Rashid says, "I have never had such harvest and earnings before. FMNR is doing me wonders. I'm even saving, something I thought wasn't possible."
Sharing with his neighbours
Rashid is also reaching out to his neighbours – refugees from South Sudan. He has already given four acres of land to five refugee families so they can grow their own food. "I want us all to have food and income," he says. "Food rations from should only be complementary."
Mawa, a refugee helped by Rashid, is delighted. "We no longer worry about running out of food rations because we grow our own. It is enough to take us throughout the year."
Martin, a refugee community leader, shares how the project is bringing people together. "Before, there was hostility between refugees and the host community because refugees would resort to stealing from the host community when they ran out of food. Thanks to people like Rashid, that's no more, and there is peaceful co-existence," says Martin.
Chantal was forced to flee
As we think about Earth Day, be encouraged by Chantal’s story.
“It did not matter that Ebola was wreaking havoc; it was better than being hacked to death.”
That’s what Chantal said about her family’s desperate flight from conflict three years ago. She and her husband and six children escaped from east Democratic Republic of Congo, to seek refuge at her brother’s house far away.
Chantal recalls how they were living like beggars, becoming a burden to their well-meaning host families. She watched helplessly as her sons and daughters dropped out of school, fearful her little girls would become child brides.
Now, thanks to a World Vision project, life is so different.
Along with 1,400 families - which includes both displaced people and host families - Chantal's family is taking part in a project to improve livelihoods, by growing fast maturing crops and looking after small livestock.
New hope for the future
Vegetables are creating a new hope for the community. Chantal explains, “We have learnt how to grow new crops, the crop spacing, the importance of planting in straight lines, as well as the biological means of fighting pests."
The vegetable gardens are close to home, allowing mothers to keep watch over their children.
She says, "Now we are earning from vegetables. I got 4kg of assorted vegetable seeds and harvested 300kg, from which I earned 90,000 francs ($45). I had never handled such amounts of money! In fact, I could not even sleep that night, fearing that thieves could come and steal my hard-earned cash."
"It is rare for women to handle this amount of money. We have learnt to rear pigs and rabbits. We have a lot of money now. Although life is becoming more and more expensive, I am able to keep my children in school," Chantal explains.
"Other than money, the vegetables have provided us the much-needed vitamins and our children now look healthy," adds Chantal. “It is easy for us to realise the difference that the vegetables are making in the lives of our children. When our children fall sick, we have money to take them to hospital.
"These crop harvests have sustained my family greatly. We were also introduced to the Village Savings and Loan Association concept. As a woman who earns my own money, I feel more confident. I am independent. The money we save is helpful because it helps us address issues that emerge unplanned for, like falling sick.
“World Vision... has started us off well with a good foundation of knowledge and skills. The money we save, and the seeds we reserve of our harvests, will keep us going even long after the organisations helping us leave. We have learnt a lot, we are eating well, and we are looking good and healthy!”
How to help others on Earth Day
If you want to help people affected by climate change on Earth Day, there are multiple things you can do, from donating, to your thoughts and prayers.
Donating to World Vision means we can empower families to become more resilient to the effects of climate change. Donations can be as big or small as you like, and you know that your money will be used for good. At World Vision, we set up disaster and emergency response funds when these major disasters occur, which is ideal for those who want to donate directly to a single cause. Or you could choose to sponsor a child, which provides families and communities with the tools to build resilience to climate disasters like flooding.
READ MORE: The difference we make in emergencies
Around the world, millions of people are facing extreme hunger, often as a result of climate change. Praying for those affected by climate change can be a positive response and directly asks God to intervene and help those who need it most.
Are you interested in finding out more about how you can help? Sign up to hear more about World Vision's work and how you can help vulnerable children living the harshest places.