‘We pray for rain, but when there’s no rain, we have to dig.’
Mekonnen is a pastoralist living in Mukecha Kebele, in Ethiopia’s South Omo region where the effects of climate change are very real. The rains have stopped, drought has dried the rivers, and crops no longer produce a harvest. Even the honey bees have disappeared.
The conditions are becoming unbearable.
Mekonnen knows his way of life as a pastoralist herdsman will not last much longer as the climate crisis worsens these conditions. Many of his livestock have already died, and hunger has forced him to sell off some of his remaining animals to feed his family.
Christian Aid partners are working with communities in this area, building more reliable water sources, providing drought resistant seeds to boost the harvest, and goats and sheep to help women build livelihoods. For Kawite who lives nearby, the support has empowered her to put food on the table and build a better future for her community and her family. Describing the new water source she says ‘The pond is not only for me. It has changed the life of this village.’
But unless we tackle the root causes of the crises that are driving the changing climate, communities will continue to see their livelihoods threatened.
Building back with justice
We know that 2020 has been incredibly hard and the future feels uncertain right now. This makes it even more important that we respond in a way that tackles the crises we face. We can go back to business as usual, perpetuating the climate crisis and growing inequality. Or we can take some positive steps to build back better from the pandemic, with justice, and towards a healthier, safer future for everybody, including Mekonnen.
In the next few months, the UK government is making various plans that will make or break the opportunity to build back better. And in the run up to COP26 (now postponed to November 2021), there will be key moments to hold them to these responsibilities.
The UK should
- Cancel the debts of poor countries to free up money to invest in health, education and clean energy.
- Support the communities most affected by the climate crisis with financial and technological resources to leapfrog fossil fuels and move straight to clean energy.
- Show global leadership by submitting an ambitious plan to the UN (its Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC) which will commit the UK to cutting most of its emissions by 2030, in line with the latest science.