Reflection for Lent.
This day included in addition to quiet time; Mass in Southwark Cathedral, and input by Patrick Jamiru, Director of Caritas, Sierra Leone, and a member of its Justice and Peace Commission.
Patrick explained how, with his team, and supported by CAFOD, he works to discover new and better ways of farming, which help poor farmers from very poor Communities, to find ways to cope with the effects of Climate Change. He helps farmers who work more than twelve hours a day, just to survive, to understand the results of logging, and the wholesale cutting down of trees to make charcoal, which is in great demand for cooking in West Africa.
His suggestions are intended to help farmers to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters, increase food security, and recognising the need for trees which maintain healthy soil.
~ Farmers are encouraged and helped to switch from upland rice farming which produces one harvest a year, to swamp valley farming which can produce up to three harvests a year.
~ They are also encouraged to reclaim land which has been devastated by mining for diamonds(blood diamonds which have brought no benefits for the ordinary people of the locality)
~ Farmers are also encouraged to set up seed banks where farmers can borrow seed and can produce ten bushels of rice for every three bushels sown. Surplus money, after providing for the immediate needs of the family can be used for the education of the children, regarded as vitally important for these families.
~ Community saving Schemes are set up where groups comprising members of the community are the organisers, to provide loans to their people. This is comparable to Credit unions in this country. The group decides what should be the contribution of each member, perhaps the equivalent of 80p
Loans are charged with a very small interest levy. There are two types of loan:
A social fund which is there to provides for loans for emergencies, e.g. christening celebrations, visits to a hospital to cover expenses for the journey, and payment for treatment, and in time of bereavement.
A loan fund is available from which people can borrow when they wish to invest in a project.
Poultry and fish farming is another area of farming which is being developed and is providing necessary protein to guard against malnutrition.

All these ways are empowering women who make up 90% of heads of families, and offer people solidarity and dignity the above information provided much material for thought for the quiet prayer and discussion which followed during the afternoon. It is good that in September, CAFOD staff and supporters will begin a three year Campaign focussing on Climate Change.
Sr. Alphonsus