This Christmas, Christian Aid is sharing a story from Malawi which outlines a project helping families who would otherwise be facing a hungry season – a situation exacerbated by the climate crisis.
The charity shares the story of mother-of-five, Fyness Tembo, who talks about the joy of a family Christmas dinner
“We celebrate Christmas by eating chicken and rice. After eating rice, I feel very happy and satisfied. I wish I could eat rice every day,” Fyness explains.
Christian Aid says: “Sadly, many families in Malawi will struggle even to put their staple food of maize porridge on the table. That’s because December falls during one of the toughest times of the year – the country’s ‘hunger season’ – which is getting worse due to the climate crisis.
“Extreme weather means that the old year’s meagre harvest runs out several weeks before the new harvest is ready. Hotter temperatures and drought, as well as destructive downpours and floods are playing havoc with the growing seasons, causing poor crop yields and food shortages.”
We hear that until recently, Fyness (50) would struggle to find enough food for herself and her family and there have been times when she was so desperate that she had to beg for food.
But Christian Aid’s local partner has provided Fyness with seeds, tools and training and today she is growing soya, groundnuts, maize and beans – enough to eat and surplus to sell for a cash income.
Fyness also received fruit tree saplings and soon she will have her own fruit. She says: “Together there are seven fruit trees. I know in the future I will have fruits. My children and I will no longer struggle to look for wild fruits in the forest. We will get them at home.”
The charity says that in rural Malawi, it falls to women and girls to collect firewood for cooking and heating water. Fyness used to walk for 6 kms to collect firewood which lasted for only two days before she needed to make the trip again.
Christian Aid’s partner has provided Fyness with a stove which consumes only a quarter of the firewood of an open fire, cutting her workload and reducing the number of trees that need to be felled.
Fyness and the others in her community are now making and selling cook stoves to generate additional income. Christian Aid says the new cook stoves are giving hours of time back to mums for better tasks than finding firewood.
In the past, her children’s school attendance was erratic because there was no money for uniforms or school fees. Fyness reveals: “Most of the time they skipped school or started school late. I had no idea where I could find the money to help them.” Since receiving help from Christian Aid’s local partner, Fyness’ children are in school and receiving an education.
“Although climate change has exacerbated hunger and hardship, Fyness is able to weather life’s storms, thanks in part to the village savings and loan scheme set up by our local partner,” says Christian Aid. “Fyness saves some of the money she makes by selling her farm produce and cook stoves, and uses her income to repay small, low-interest loans”
Fyness adds: “With the money I saved in the village bank, I have been able to start buying iron sheets to put a new roof on my house and I have sent my children to school.”
The struggle with extreme poverty is not the first challenge that Fyness has overcome in her life. When she was a child, a dangerous eye infection called trachoma threatened to leave her blind, but she is thankful to the doctors who treated the infection and saved her eyesight. Today, she enjoys good health, working with her husband on their farm and bringing up their children.
“This Christmas, Fyness is grateful that she has enough nutritious food to feed her family, a fuel-efficient stove to ease the task of collecting firewood, and soon she will have the security of a new roof on her home,” Christian Aid says. “Most of all, she is happy that her children are in school, and receiving the education they deserve.
“This transformation has been made possible because of the love our supporters and sponsoring churches show for their global neighbours.”
If you wish to make a donation, please visit caid.ie/ChristmasAppeal.
Your gift this Christmas could help another mum like Fyness to lift her family out of hunger.