At this time of year, for over 40 years now, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has come together over the Christmas and New Year period to marry Christ’s love for their global neighbour with the sacrificial and faithful giving of congregations up and down the island of Ireland through the Church’s World Development Appeal (WDA).
This is the first World Development Appeal that PCI has launched in two years, due to the Covid pandemic. Last year, for practical reasons, PCI launched a special Moderator’s Christmas Appeal to provide support to people in fragile, vulnerable countries suffering due to Covid-19. In ‘Weathering the Storm’, the title of the 2021 WDA, both the pandemic along with Climate Change, are central to the Appeal – because together they present a unique and ongoing challenge for some of the most vulnerable countries on the planet. This year, the WDA will support projects in Ethiopia and Haiti.
Rev Richard Kerr, Convener of the Council for Global Mission’s Global Development Committee, explained that the Appeal, primarily for Presbyterians, offers congregations across Ireland the opportunity to learn more about, and support, the work of sustainable development undertaken by PCI’s global development partners, Christian Aid Ireland and Tearfund, in a number of countries across the globe.
“The World Development Appeal seeks to provide a breadth of understanding of what good sustainable development practices look like and the challenges they can encounter on the ground. It is hard work, but important work that also gives us a fresh vision of how we are connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ, however far away they may be,” Mr Kerr said.
“For many in the world, the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to wreak havoc for years to come. Combined with a changing climate, and the increased uncertainty and extreme weather events which that brings, millions of people face a very real joint threat. It is a perfect storm if you like, of Covid and climate. As creation groans, so many communities are struggling to sustain even the most basic of livelihoods, fighting hard to provide for their families and loved ones.”
The minister of Templepatrick Presbyterian Church in Co. Antrim continued, “The WDA is a great opportunity for us as a Church to join with our development partners, Christian Aid Ireland and Tearfund, as global disciples of Jesus Christ. This year we will be supporting Christian Aid’s work in Ethiopia and Tearfund’s in Haiti. From previous appeals I know that the Church is not only bighearted, but generous in its sacrificial giving, and many will be blessed through this appeal.”
Over this summer, there have been emergency humanitarian crises in both countries – in Ethiopia a severe drought and locust swarms have devastated crops, which has left more people facing food shortages. Haiti was hit by an earthquake disaster resulting in a tragic loss of life and many damaged homes. In both situations, these emergencies have been made even more devastating and dangerous because of the ongoing challenge of both Covid and climate change.
This year’s lead project comes from Ethiopia, through Christian Aid Ireland working with their local partner, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) Development and Social Services Commission. PCI’s 2021 World Development Appeal project will provide support to farmers in the communities of Demboya, Lemo, Soro, Mida-Kegn, Berehe and Ambo, who have already benefited as a result EECMY’s ecological food and agricultural farm resource management programme. The initiative, known as the Eco Farm Project for short, is in part in response to climate change.
Ethiopia is presently the second most populated country in the continent of Africa, it is also one of the poorest, with many millions of people affected by climate change-induced drought, which has caused failed harvests and loss of livestock. Recent months have seen a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases with the accelerated spread of the delta variant.
In a short video, produced specially for the World Development Appeal that gives an insight of how lives can be changed through sustainable development, Yohannes Forsido, a social worker with the EECMY, talks about the challenges Climate Change brings and how the right support can make a difference, like the Eco Farm Project, which the Appeal will be supporting.
“Our dry season is getting longer and hotter, which causes many problems for the poorest people. We have prolonged desertification with fires, dehydrated cattle and springs drying up. If the rain does come, it is more extreme with floods destroying the land and ruining crops,” he said.
Designed to help communities adapt to the effects of Climate Change, the Eco Farm Project has two branches, crop diversification and natural resource management, which enables farmers to best utilise their small plots with the right crops and to better manage the soil and water. The project also aims to improve soil fertility to ensure that the land yields more food, while helping farmers to adapt to the changing climate. The second branch focuses on women’s economic empowerment through self-help groups.
With around 20 women per group, the groups help women to grow in confidence and play a greater role in decision-making in homes and families, helping them to access loans to set up small businesses, whether making injera bread or a poultry business, for example, and save.
One of the participants, Tigist Melese said that the training provided her with a good understanding of agriculture and food security. Having been part of the programme for two years her family is now more self-sufficient and can now make a profit from their hard work. “Our greatest achievement is that we can provide healthy food for our children, they are healthier and safe,” she said.
Welcoming the support, Christian Aid Ireland’s Chief Executive, Rosamond Bennett said, “We’re so grateful to be partnering with PCI again this year for their World Development Appeal. With the generous support from Presbyterian churches and members, our partner the Ethiopian Evangelical Church will provide vital support to farmers in Ethiopia who are battling the impacts of a climate crisis they didn’t cause. Through agricultural training and self-help groups, families will be better able to survive droughts and provide healthy food for their children.”
Speaking about the 2021 World Development Appeal and commending it to PCI’s 500-plus congregations, Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr David Bruce thanked church members across Ireland for their faithful and prayerful support for the most recent appeals. The 2019 Appeal raised £573,484 (€673,844) while the 2020 Christmas Appeal raised £363,910 (€427,594).
“Along with our 2019 World Development Appeal, and our Christmas Appeal last year, PCI was able to raise nearly £1 million (€1.2million) for projects that continue to make a difference. On behalf of our Church I would like to thank everyone who contributed, especially last year. When things were difficult at home, we were still able to look beyond our front doors and our own needs to the needs of our global neighbours,” he said.
“Once again, through ‘Weathering the Storm’ we have two fantastic projects to prayerfully support and an opportunity to share in a vision and make a difference beyond these shores. Sustainable development is making a difference and PCI are in it for the long hall, supporting our global development partners who work with their partners on the ground, making a difference and honouring God in the process.”
While the project in Ethiopia is the lead project for this year’s WDA, it will also support a project in Haiti, where the earthquake in August 2021 has underlined the fragility and challenges of the country’s economy. The project is run by Christian Community Foundation in Action, a partner of Tearfund and will support churches and schools in Nippes and Artibonite to reduce the vulnerability to poverty that families face. This will be achieved through the planting of gardens and trees, which are a source of income, while protecting the local environment.
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