For many years now, you have been journeying with our partners from South Sudan. Your support has helped the programs of our international development partners; partners like Christian Mercy International (CMI). Your partnership has enabled lives to be changed through their work. We are excited to introduce and invite you to partner in a new program created by CMI - Return the Rains.
Communities in South Sudan have experienced the negative impacts of a changing climate since 2015. These effects include warmer and drier weather conditions which have led to droughts. The changed rainfall has also increased the frequency and severity of floods, causing farmers to lose their harvests. This has caused South Sudan’s agricultural productivity to deteriorate, affecting food security and the livelihoods of its rural population.1
With a vision to address this issue, Paulino Malou, Director of CMI, became the driving force of the new ‘Return the Rains’ Project. “We used to have rain on time and we could have two harvest periods each year. Farming production was of plenty and singing of hunger was not known, unlike it is today where climate change has affected farming in South Sudan and Aweil in particular. Today we only have rain once a year, and it comes in June or July rather than April or May,” he said.
CMI initiated consultation with the government, NGOs and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to ensure the project was well planned. This project builds on research which shows that increasing the number of trees in an area can improve local rainfall. Evidence shows that on average, 40% or more of the precipitation and heavy dew in the atmosphere of major rainforests originatesfrom evaporation and transpiration of water from plants.2
With this in mind, the project aims to plant trees in the grounds of community organisations, with the long-term goal of more consistent rainfall for subsistence farmers. This in turn will improve food security, soil fertility, yields and the living environment.
When considering the reasons behind the climate change, Paulino says, “The problem is human activity such as … cleared forests for settlement, human life activities for employment such as making charcoal, tree cutting and timber work which have all resulted in deforestation of the country.”
So far, nearly 5,000 trees have been planted across four payams (counties), in 72 schools, 80 churches, 15 health centres and 1,200 marketplaces. Local people are planting the trees, with training from CMI. So far, the survival rate for trees after three months is a whopping 99.5 percent! People can obviously see the value of the project and CMI’s training has prepared them well for their part in it. As Paulino says, “The development we need is the development we do ourselves".
“This project is very acceptable to the community due to its positive impact on the social institution we focus on - schools, health care centres, churches, markets and local government headquarters. They receive the advantage of trees which bring shade and also fruit to eat. This is our best option to take so that we have rain twice a year, fight hunger and improve the climate as well.”
Long-term, the trees will grow and impact rainfall around Aweil. Any shift in rainfall patterns or agricultural productivity will not be noticeable for at least ten years, but the investment now will help secure a better future. Your continuing partnership, through GMP and COCOA, can help plant more trees that will improve the living environment, and help increase farming production for subsistence farmers.
Read more about Return the Rains here.
1 https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview#1. 2 https://www.learningfromnature.com.au/drought-proof-increasing-rainfall/