From Bolivia to Kenya to Cambodia, farmers in MCC-supported projects are sharing how changes in rainfall and more frequent and severe weather due to climate change make it harder to grow enough food for their families.
But the one thing a farmer can’t control is the weather. So how do MCC partners work with farmers grappling with a lack of regular rainfall?
In Bolivia, one answer lies in imagining a harvest of water.
Using a language of sowing and reaping that is ingrained in farmers’ lives, MCC partner Programa de Desarollo Integral Interdisciplinario (PRODII; Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Development Program) is urging farmers to look for ways to “plant” and “harvest” water.
“Planting water has to do with the building of any water system that might be needed,” says Nathan Toews of North Newton, Kansas. Toews and his wife Leidy Muñoz are representatives for MCC’s work in Bolivia. “The harvesting is to be able to take advantage of the water that is being saved.”
Sometimes that means directly capturing water.
In a new three-year project, PRODII is helping farmers establish systems that trap water from springs higher in the mountains and funnel it down through pipes. The water is then used for crop irrigation or in the home.
But that’s not all.
PRODII also is urging farmers to invest in efforts to plant trees and make other improvements in what program staff describe as water recharge zones, areas at higher altitudes above the springs.
The idea is that preserving the groundwater up high will lead to a better supply of water in the springs below.
"When we talk about creation care and climate change, we’re talking about living in a way today that we have a future, that we have a healthy earth in the future."
It’s not a quick fix. Toews was struck by how well project participants and community leaders like Severino Zárate Choque, shown above in a water recharge zone, knew that yet remained committed.
“They talked about that in 10 years, in 20 years, this land is going to be good,” remembers Toews. The changes may pay off earlier. “But there’s a sense this is definitely about the future.”
And that dedication is something that inspires him.
“When we talk about creation care and climate change, we’re talking about living in a way today that we have a future, that we have a healthy earth in the future,” Toews says. “What is attractive about this project and this system is that these communities are doing that on a very local level.”
The language of planting and harvesting water isn’t new for MCC workers and partners in Bolivia, Toews notes, stressing that long-time MCC agriculture worker Patrocinio Garvizu says he’s heard the terms used for years.
But for Toews, this approach underscores how fragile a resource water is, especially in a time of changing weather patterns.
"The idea of planting and harvesting water really communicates this idea that we have to work to have water. We can’t just assume it’s going to be around."
“The idea of planting and harvesting water really communicates this idea that we have to work to have water. We can’t just assume it’s going to be around,” he says. “The communities know that. They’ve known that for a number of years.”
And it’s a lesson for people everywhere, Toews stresses. He hopes that more people will both care for creation where they live and support efforts to ensure communities like these in Bolivia have the water they rely on to live and grow crops.