Melbourne, Australia

The Mundri region of South Sudan is a world away from the battlefields of Ukraine, yet for Caterina and others in her part of the world, the connection has never felt more real. 

Caterina and her family rely on farming for their food and livelihood. They know just how vulnerable this can make them. Caterina is a member of a local farmers’ group set up by Tearfund Australia’s partner Sudan Evangelical Mission, who respond to food and economic insecurity in the region. For over 20 years, Tearfund has partnered with SEM as they have faithfully served communities through years of violent conflict and the impacts of an increasingly harsh climate. 

“In my farming, I have faced so many challenges...poor methods of planting, land preparation, weed management and storage. Crops on the small amount of land were always under attack from disease and pests, and we did not know how to counter them,” Caterina said. The training Caterina received from SEM has been vital in helping her meet these challenges, support her family and prepare for future seasons.

South Sudan Caterina

Living in South Sudan's Mundri region, Caterina and her family rely on farming for their food and livelihood. PICTURE: Courtesy of Tearfund Australia. 

Secure, reliable access to food is one of the basic building blocks that makes it possible for people to lift themselves out of poverty.  However, after decades of progress, hunger and severe food insecurity are on the rise.

Right now, the world stands on the edge of another crisis. Fifty million people are on the brink of famine. In communities and countries where people were already struggling to find food as a result of climate change, conflict, and COVID, the war in Ukraine has pushed them to breaking point. In Somalia alone, an estimated seven million people are likely to face acute food insecurity between June and September this year. Without immediate therapeutic food and care, almost eight million children under five are at risk of death from malnutrition, with the number rising by the minute.

"Right now, the world stands on the edge of another crisis. Fifty million people are on the brink of famine. In communities and countries where people were already struggling to find food as a result of climate change, conflict, and COVID, the war in Ukraine has pushed them to breaking point."

The escalating food crisis highlights the importance and urgency of action to address climate change. Kuki Rokhum, director of training and mobilisation for Tearfund Australia’s Indian partner EFICOR, has witnessed the experiences of people living in poverty in India being made worse by the impact of climate change and says: “In India, as in other places, we are feeling the effects of climate change in extreme weather events, changing monsoon patterns and record temperatures. EFICOR works with farmers who tell us how things have changed. Unpredictable monsoons have affected production. More frequent droughts and flooding are causing huge losses for farmers and having a disastrous impact.”

Across much of the Horn of Africa, the climate crisis has changed weather patterns in the region. With four successive failed rainy seasons, and another one potentially on the way, food is scarce, and harvests have withered away. And in Afghanistan, severe drought is crippling communities where 60 per cent of families rely on farming for their livelihoods.

For many rural communities, the drought has made their traditional way of life impossible. It also means that, when the rains do come, the land can no longer absorb the water like it used to. This leads to flash flooding – as the water has nowhere to go. Homes and what little crops or cattle are left are washed away.

Tearfund has been a vocal advocate for global action on climate change for more than two decades. Earlier this year, Tearfund released its landmark research report They Shall Inherit the Earth, to open a new conversation amongst the church about climate change and how, as Christians, we are called to respond. Recently we acknowledged and celebrated the significant milestone of the Federal Government's Climate Bill passing the House of Representatives. This is a positive development in a country where for too long, conversation and action on climate has been polarised and stagnant. Yet the hunger crisis impacting millions today is another stark reminder of the work still to be done. 

Back in Mundri, South Sudan, new techniques in crop production, pest and disease management, land preparation and crop diversity are making a transformative difference for Caterina and the other farmers in her group. 

“Though it has been interrupted by the heavy rainfall, the little I have harvested has helped my family. From my small yield, I managed to pay school fees and welfare for my family members, save some to sustain the living standard of my family and purchase medication,” Caterina shared. She hopes the income from her produce will allow her to access more land to cultivate, too.

“The knowledge and skills I have acquired during training have really made a big difference. It has improved my farming activities, I expect to receive a good harvest this year and my family shall have access to their basic needs.”

We rely on our readers to fund Sight's work - become a financial supporter today!

For more information, head to our Subscriber's page.

Tearfund Australia’s partners are actively working in the countries hardest hit by this hunger crisis, including Afghanistan, Uganda, Yemen, Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Our long term focus on supporting climate resilient agriculture, food and livelihoods projects and an acute focus on food security is making a real and lasting impact.

Mobile clinics in Somalia are providing lifesaving health and nutrition services to communities facing extreme drought. In South Sudan and Ethiopia farmers are seeing increased crop production through training in climate resilient farming. Displaced families in Afghanistan are receiving urgently needed food, hygiene kits and blankets. In Yemen, communities rebuilding after conflict are accessing safe water through the restoration of water points.

Together, we must act now.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and distant from the issue of world hunger in places like South Sudan. But for each of us, there are some practical ways we can make a difference. 

Last week, Tearfund Australia has launched a Hunger Crisis Appeal, seeking to raise urgent funds to support communities across the region that are directly impacted by these global and local events. At the same time, Tearfund has joined with our development colleagues here in Australia calling on the Australian Government to step up and do our part in responding to this unfolding crisis. Some $150 million is needed to avert catastrophe in the worst-affected hunger hotspots including in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Afghanistan. 

Together we can make a difference, save lives and help fight famine.

greg hewson

Greg Hewson is communications manager at Tearfund Australia.