Four steps to helping poor in a harsh world

While Scotland can expect its fair share of rain this autumn, many poor countries are in the grip of a life-threatening drought.

Traditional Ethiopian Weather forcaster photographed in a deep well in the Ethiopian district of Borena only used during times of drought. 24.11.15

In Nicaragua whole villages have been left deserted as wells and 
rivers have dried up and people’s crops have withered in the ground. Families have been forced to move to nearby towns and cities in search of food and work. The traditional rains they depend on to grow crops like maize, beans and vegetables, which would normally sustain them through the dry season, simply haven’t come.

Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe droughts globally, hitting the world’s poorest people first and hardest, despite them having done the least to cause the problem. That’s why it’s crucial that here in Scotland we do everything we can to help those in need, and reduce our own impact on the climate.

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Money from people in Scotland and the Big Lottery Fund is helping more than 1,000 families in Nicaragua and El Salvador survive the current drought crisis. Emergency food supplies are being given to the most vulnerable families, including the elderly.

For the longer term we’re also providing families with new seeds to replace those they’ve lost, installing emergency water storage tanks and deepening wells to capture more water when it does rain, and training communities in water and soil conservation.

Work like this is becoming more important all around the world. In Malawi and Zambia we’re working with poor farmers to help them cope with the onset of climate change. Money from SCIAF and the Scottish Government is enabling them to grow a wider variety of crops, conserve water and improve the quality of their soil so they can grow more food.

While this work is vital, wealthy countries like Scotland must do more to reduce the impact they have on the environment.

Today, nearly a hundred people from all over Scotland – from as far afield as the Western Isles, Highlands and Borders – are meeting their MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to demand action in Scotland on climate change.

During today’s Stop Climate Chaos Scotland event, they will be urging their MSPs to ensure the Scottish Government does more to reduce Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. A Climate Plan for Scotland and a new Climate Change Bill are expected in the months ahead. MSPs and the Scottish Government must set out clear plans to ensure Scotland does its fair share to tackle climate change.

As part of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, we’re urging MSPs and the Scottish Government to look at four key areas.

In recent years Scotland has made good progress in promoting renewable electricity – the same focus must now be applied to generating cleaner heat for our homes and businesses, which currently account for half of the total emissions Scotland generates.

What we eat, how it’s produced and how we dispose of food waste, all have a big influence on the emissions we produce too. We can reduce these emissions by wasting less food, promoting organic farming and putting in place regulations to get farmers to use less fertiliser.

We also need to make homes across Scotland much more energy efficient and invest the money that is needed to make this happen.

Finally, we need to look at how we travel. Low carbon transport must be a priority, with significant investment put into promoting cycling and walking, alongside a move away from travel by private car.

Scotland, together with other countries around the world, must do everything it can to address the problems of climate change if we are to prevent a future in which more and more people in poor countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Malawi and Zambia are hit by worsening droughts, storms and floods.

As Pope Francis highlighted in his most recent encyclical, Laudato Si: On care of our common home, we have a moral duty to care for our environment and its destruction hurts the poor the most.

We urgently need to look at our own lives and how we can reduce the impact we have on the planet and its most vulnerable people, and ensure that our elected representatives make the policy changes that 
are needed to create a more positive climate for everyone in the years ahead.

Val Morgan is the Media and Communications Officer for the Scottish 
Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF),