Poverty and Climate Change

Climate change impacts the lives of those most vulnerable and living in poverty in many ways. The increased temperatures can lead to drought and famine. Severe weather patterns like hurricanes and flooding are causing destruction in communities and leading to hunger and malnutrition.

When drought hit the dry corridor, a large region in Guatemala experiencing extreme weather conditions, hunger worsened among the country’s indigenous people. María Ermelinda Vásquez Ramírez, like many others in the community, did not know how she could provide for her children.

Meager rainfall makes it hard for families, like Maria’s, to grow enough corn and beans to last the entirety of the year. Most families have not produced a full harvest since the drought hit four years ago. Because of this, some people have resorted to drastic survival tactics, such as skipping or reducing the size of meals or selling their machetes and shovels.

“This is the worst-case scenario for families in need,” says Rosa Joo, who oversees the project for CRS. For families with small children, it is a situation that has lifelong effects, such as delayed development from malnutrition, which can cause poor performance in school and make children more susceptible to illness and disease.

As the changes in climate create difficulties for families to provide their next meal, CRS is working with partners to assist families with their immediate needs, while also addressing the underlying causes of hunger and poverty.

In addition to providing emergency nutritious food, which participating families can buy using an electronic card at local shops, the project organizes a series of fairs for much-needed agricultural products and tools.

Photo by Robyn Fieser/CRS

Maria received vegetable seeds and a batch of chickens at an agricultural fair hosted by CRS and our Caritas partner in Guatemala. She sells the chickens for extra money and uses the cilantro and cabbage she grows in meals for her family that came from the seeds she received.

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

Not only that, but women and men who participate in the project also receive education about nutrition. Through demonstrations and workshops, they learn to recognize symptoms of malnutrition and other illnesses, and how to select foods to prepare nutritious meals.

Now Maria, a mom of 8, says her children are healthy and thriving.

Photo by Robyn Fieser/CRS

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done together to combat climate change:

Over the past couple of months, you’ve reached out to your Representatives in Congress to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which seeks to learn about the impacts and find solutions to climate change. As of today, there are now 78 members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, and it’s growing! Check to see if your Representative has joined, and send a message to thank them or to urge them to join.

As we look ahead to Spring, we’re excited to share the launch of a new campaign to prevent and end hunger—it’s called Nourish Change!

Right now, Congress is deliberating about the 2018 Farm Bill, which determines much of our nation’s agriculture policy and the fate of many food security programs that address hunger in the United States and around the world. In fact, here’s a joint letter to Congress highlighting the priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill from the U.S. Catholic Church, as articulated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The letter requests that American policies provide for all of our brothers and sister living in poverty and experiencing hunger in the United States and around the world.

We must urge our legislators to reauthorize critical programs that address the changing climate. Raise your voice to protect programs that conserve and transform barren landscapes, help people grow more of the food they need, and support communities in poverty grow more resilient.