A TYNESIDE charity is rallying round to help small-scale African farmers cope with the devastating effects of changing climate.
Without urgent action, the situation will worsen leading to starvation and destitution, warns Gateshead-based Traidcraft.
The organisation is helping farmers in Kenya take practical steps such as training in beekeeping, fruit growing, rabbit rearing and water harvesting.
Traidcraft has made the project the focus of its Christmas appeal to help extend its work in other developing countries.
Traidcraft is the UK’s leading fair trade organisation and has been fighting poverty through trade since 1979.
Supported by its unique structure - a trading company and a development charity working together - Traidcraft runs development programmes in some of the poorest countries in the world and campaigns for trade justice.
This year, a major challenge has come from East Africa.
As rains failed for the third consecutive year, millions of people from the worst-hit regions sought food and water in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. Thousands died on their way to the camps. Those who made it to safety are still there, says Traidcraft.
In recent years, rainfall in East Africa has become less predictable and there have been times when the long, hot spells have severely reduced food production.
Traditional cash crops have yielded a fraction of what has been expected, leading to mass unemployment of farm labourers and an increasing downward spiral into poverty.
Rob Donnelly, Traidcraft’s head of Africa programmes, said: “The steady decline in rainfall during the past two decades, combined with more frequent droughts and less predictable rainy seasons, has made life increasingly difficult for farmers in East Africa.
“All of us here at Traidcraft want to help farmers find an alternative to relying on food aid and that means finding other means of income generation.”
Edward Wambugu, Traidcraft’s East Africa director, said: “Changing weather patterns are having a huge negative impact on small-scale farmers in Kenya and these changes are different year on year.
“This unpredictability has caused the biggest problems for the communities that I work with. It means that the natural balance of the land and climate have worked against each other, leaving farmers facing a tough year ahead.
“The decision to plant or not is causing farmers grave concern as the rains are so unpredictable. This year the long rains of March to May did not arrive. Crops failed.”
Traidcraft works with small-scale producers across the developing world, helping them to diversify their crops and identify other sources of income.
Until recently, smallholder farmers at Iriaini tea factory in Kenya – one of Traidcraft’s newest tea suppliers – relied solely on tea grown on their small plots of land.
While tea remains at the heart of the Iriaini operation, training carried out by Traidcraft is creating new opportunities to help farmers find new ways of making the most of their limited land.