Flood damage, droughts and famine were on the agenda of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, for which over 100 world leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt to discuss the global climate crisis. During the 27th annual conference, African leaders urged “developed nations” to exercise accountability for the “loss and damage” caused by pollution to economically developing countries. This comes as Africa’s economy was reported to have declined between 5 and 15 per cent due to the impact of climate change on agriculture, tourism, energy and water.
As political figures and activists engaged in discourse over addressing the effects of climate change through political leadership, a small group of women in South Sudan assembled less than 1000 miles away. Faced with a withering supply of crops and livestock, they’re pursuing an avenue of farming that will feed their families and eliminate an element of danger from their daily lives: planting trees.
Standing in muddy fields and armed with watering cans, the women are determined to conserve water for planting season, which is susceptible to the growing pattern of inconsistent rainfall, flooding and drought. They are participants of Women for Women International’s Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program (SWSN), which provides vocational training for agricultural practices including tree farming and water conservation.
“The climate of our area has not been consistent, it has been changing,”
said Bosko, SWSN Agriculture Skills Trainer, who added that Jonglei and the regions of the Upper Nile have experienced an increase in floods. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, two-thirds of South Sudan is experiencing flooding, leading to displacement and food insecurity.
To alleviate the challenges created by extreme weather conditions, Bosko said the women are encouraged to plant fruit trees for a food supply, or to be used to sell for income. They also plant species of trees that can be used for firewood, as displaced women who leave their camps to collect firewood are at high risk of being sexually assaulted by soldiers amid ongoing conflict in the country.
The SWSN Program in South Sudan is on the fourth month of integrating agronomy as a component of the program’s curriculum. The training will not only equip women with the skills to sustain a healthy harvest, but will also contribute to the reduction of Africa’s carbon footprint, though the continent is responsible for only 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
“We’re looking at how to train these women,” Bosko said. “Because the productivity, the yields that they used to have, it is declining. It is not like it used to be.”
Through SWSN, women’s existing knowledge about agriculture is expanded to provide them with the ability to achieve increased incomes and contribute to climate change mitigation.
“We help women realize their own power,” Bosko said. “The agriculture trainings that we offer women, they are under the economic empowerment trainings that are being provided by women, for women, for these participants.”