Green Anglicans tackle climate change impacts in Swaziland

By Mncedisi Masuku

Swaziland’s third National Communication to the UNFCCC has reported that agriculture, water, biodiversity and ecosystems and health are the most vulnerable sectors to Climate Change. With the 2015/16 induced El Niño event, this has been all too evident. Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, ran out of water to a point that schools had to be closed. Livestock died due to lack of water and fodder, and the sugar industry, the major cash crop of the country, was also impacted. Some areas of the country have not yet recovered, especially in the lowveld. Women and children, especially in rural communities, have suffered the most due to the impacts of climate variability and change.

The Green Anglicans is a faith-based environmental movement of the Anglican Church. Swaziland is affiliated to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Environmental Network (ACSA-EN), and the Green Anglicans work to enhance resilience to climate change and to assist the most vulnerable in adapting to the impacts of climate change. The Anglican Communion’s fifth mark of mission states that the church should safeguard the integrity of creation, sustain and renew the life of the earth. The leader of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has declared climate change and religious violence as the top two major challenges of the Church; he has called on the church to come forward with adaptation and mitigation strategies to meet these challenges (April 2016).

During the season of creation (1 September to 4 October 2017) the movement facilitated an education workshop for the community on the value of caring for God’s creation as people of faith. We use Liturgical materials (Bible study manuals) as well as materials for children such as Ryan the Rhino (see www.greenanglicans.org) in our campaigns and to raise awareness. This year we organised a river clean-up campaign, partnering with the Municipality Council of Mbabane and the Swaziland Environment Authority to sensitise the community about issues relating to ‘water justice’.

An annual Water Justice Conference is held in New York. Around the world different faith communities and eco-organisations work to educate people about adaptation to water scarcity, with a focus on the value and sacredness of water to human life and the entire ecosystem. Following the conference, in Swaziland we assisted rural communities from the drought-prone and impoverished Shiselweni and Lubombo regions to harvest water from roofs and store it in tanks at their church buildings to provide the community with access to water.

The Adaptation Network has equipped the Anglican movement in Swaziland with knowledge about the importance of community participation and project ownership by the community. After the recent workshop ‘Practical Adaptation for for Vulnerable Groups’ held in Cape Town, I held discussions with the community on the question of how are we going to ensure the project sustains itself even during dry seasons. Following further discussions with the Bishop of Swaziland, we proposed that each homestead should pay a fee to hire a tanker to refill the water tanks of the community and the movement assist with funds when they are available.

We have been able to use the insights gained during the recent Adaptation Network training workshop to promote more effective community participation. The community suggested that the church premises should house a vegetable garden. Currently people travel long distances to the nearest markets to buy vegetables; the vegetable garden will enable the community to address food insecurity. Sales of the vegetable will also generate income that can be used to refill their drinking water tanks in times of drought.

Since the tanks have been fully installed the rain season has started, and water is now being harvested. The next adaptation strategy that we will promote is growing vegetables in ‘climate smart’ ways. Following discussions, we agreed with the community that Permaculture is the way to go. We have trained permaculturists within the movement who have let people know that once they have fenced a suitable area, they are ready to offer their skills and work with the community. The Movement has donated materials for a fence to the community. Once the targeted plot is fully fenced and the land is prepared, permaculture training will be provided to enable people to start their own adaptation initiative that will respond to food security and enable sustainable water usage even in the dry season.