Climate Change: Finding ways to mitigate a global issue

09 December 2022

I was standing on the edge of a village in rural Tanzania in October. About 25 women were waiting patiently with empty containers beside the village water supply. This is a water-hole, the only source for the village and its surrounding area, providing drinking water, washing and cooking water and irrigation for the fields. It was little more than a puddle, not enough to fill a small, single bucket.

water-hole-2122After hours of waiting and hoping that some water may ‘bubble up’ from the ground, the women walked back to their homes with empty containers. This year, yet again, the rains have failed. Two months after the rains should have begun, the ground is parched and dusty. At a time when harvest should be approaching, the crops have not even been planted.

This is not an isolated occurrence. In recent months I have travelled across Central, East and Southern Africa and witnessed similar scenes throughout the continent. The devastating drought and repeated failure of the rains, caused by climate change, extends from the Horn of Africa, as far south as Mozambique. Huge swathes of agricultural land have no crops and are becoming a dustbowl. There is now real concern across Africa about the possibility of widespread famine next year.

Villagers all say the same thing; in recent years, weather patterns have become totally unpredictable. The normal, seasonal, patterns have disappeared and the dry, barren land that results becomes badly eroded when the rains finally do arrive, creating floods that are destructive of the environment and of the societies that depend on it, often requiring an international relief response.

Climate change has far-reaching human social and political consequences that create instability on an international scale. Typically, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people that are most affected, but the hardship created by climate change does not remain localised.

As the land is denuded, pressure between groups of people for its use, for example between settled and herding people, increases. In parts of Africa, this tension has led to extreme violence. As people from different communities compete for advantage and control of declining resources, existing tensions of culture and religion intensify in a way that has lasting, dangerous implications across borders.

Climate change is making some areas uninhabitable and is contributing hugely to food insecurity in numerous nations. These conditions have caused a significant move from rural to urban areas of Africa.

As population and unemployment levels increase in towns and cities, internal migration becomes less attractive with an increasing number of people seeking to migrate externally.  Notwithstanding the possible contributions that migrants can make to the countries in which they settle, this movement of people in search of a better life can put social and economic strain on the receiving countries, many of them poor themselves, whilst reducing the human resource and capacity within the countries of origin.  

Given the extent of the environmental challenges across Africa, many attempt to migrate north to Europe, using three routes: across the Mediterranean from Libya or Tunisia to Italy; from West Africa to the Canary Islands; and from Morocco to Spain. Despite the multiple and considerable dangers of all of these routes, the number of attempted migrations via these routes is high and are likely to increase as the consequences of climate change, which include political instability and conflict, make life more difficult and even unbearable in some of the most affected regions.

However, there are solutions.

Throughout Africa, local agriculture projects are seeking to increase crop yields, to plant trees and fruit plantations that will not only provide food, but re-invigorate the soil. Large infrastructure projects could also pipe water from mountain regions and lakes in Africa to more arid areas far from substantial water supplies. Whilst the cost of national infrastructure projects may seem high, it is nothing compared to the cost of supporting the millions of migrants, managing conflicts and doing nothing to prevent environmental degradation.

It is incumbent on those countries guilty of the industrial practices and policies that contribute the most to climate change to address these challenges at home.

In 2021 the global arms trade was valued at over one trillion dollars. It would be better for the international community, rather than prioritising the success of those industries that facilitate conflict, to enable and support the transformative, life-giving projects across the world. Governments have a moral and political responsibility to reconsider their economic priorities and their long-term impact on the planet and on humanity.

Climate change has a devastating impact on tens of millions of the most vulnerable people and Methodist partners all over the world are undertaking projects to mitigate its consequences at a local level. A few months ago, the Director of Humanitarian Relief and Church Development in the Methodist Church in Kenya said: “Climate change will soon be THE number one issue we have to address in our Christian ministry and service.”

Initiatives on a local and national scale can mitigate some of the consequences of climate change. For example, The Methodist Church in Britain has now funded the construction of a bore-hole in the village mentioned at the beginning of this article. This will transform the lives of all the villagers and provide irrigation water for the fields.

Climate change affects us all, it is both a practical and a theological issue. We are deeply aware of how connected the social, political and even religious implications of climate change can be. It is incumbent upon the developed nations to take note of the reality of the impact of climate change on some of the poorest places on the planet, and to seek transformative solutions to mitigate its effects.

The Methodist Church In Britain, with its’ partners globally, is committed to playing its’ part in contributing to this goal.


Dr. Andrew Ashdown
Partnership Coordinator for Africa