As we seek and pray for increased global efforts to halt the worst effects of climate change, families are already suffering. In Malawi, farmers like Beatrice are struggling with the change of weather, which threatens to push them back into poverty. Meet the grandmother who is learning new skills so her family can survive.
The odds were already stacked against Beatrice, a 60-year-old grandmother who lives in a small rural village in central Malawi. The family live season-by-season and rely on the crops they grow themselves for food and – if there's any surplus to sell – extra income for essentials.
But for many years there was no surplus, in fact the harvests were reducing year-by-year. Beatrice was too busy furiously farming to consider why, but she noticed the seasons were changing. Weather patterns that families relied on for generations were becoming less predictable.
In the past, farmers like Beatrice could plant, cultivate and harvest at regular intervals. Now, increasingly, seeds sown would produce shoots that shrivelled in the ground when the rains failed to come. Or crops would be washed away after torrential floods.
'Yes, I have known hunger,' says Beatrice. 'I am not educated so I can't tell you how long it has been. But it has been a long struggle. It was difficult to grow maize. The size of the crop wasn't big enough.'
The poverty and struggles that Beatrice endures is widespread across rural Malawi, with hunger a regular occurrence. Families like hers have to grow enough food to eat because there is no backup.
Learning to farm anew
Thanks to the support of people like you, Tearfund’s local partner is helping Beatrice’s community to find more effective ways to farm and protect the local environment. They have supported families with an ingenious farming method known as conservation agriculture. It's a sustainable approach that protects soil from erosion, degradation and improves its quality and biodiversity. Conservation farming also contributes to the preservation of natural resources, water and air, while increasing crop yields.
As part of this, our local partner has been training communities on how to make their own organic fertiliser to increase soil quality. Beatrice is now an expert.
'They taught us how to produce the best fertiliser. That is what the women here do,' says Beatrice. 'Then we plough the soil and plant. We now have more maize to harvest.
'We are seeing a great change… [They are] bringing many skills into the community. Now things are much better.'