Catherine Lunyungu intimately understands the consequences and the costs of climate change on once bountiful harvests. The 35-year-old farmer from Tanzania’s Iringa Region described losing most of her annual rice harvest to severe flooding over the 2019/2020 harvest season. On a 3-acre plot that normally yielded 70 bags of rice, she managed to recover just six bags – leaving her with no surplus to sell at market, and very little food to get her through to the following harvest.
Others in her community lost both their harvests and their homes to the rising flood waters. Mothers were forced to deliver babies at home when severe rainfall washed away roads and bridges, and with them the only access to local hospitals.
Today, as a member of the climate adaptation team with Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, a civil society organization and long-time Landesa partner, Catherine is becoming a champion for climate action. Her team coordinates with local meteorological agencies to provide her community with timely and more accurate weather news – information that helps farmers make informed decisions about which crops to grow and how to time their planting and harvests to avoid the worst effects of severe weather.
Tanzania’s youth have an important stake in these adaptation efforts, Catherine said. Because youth (ages 15-35) are the majority of the population in her community, they offer tremendous labor power for the agricultural sector. Yet, most youth in her community are unemployed, and an even greater number are landless. And without rights to land, it’s been difficult to include their voices in land management discussions that can advance climate adaptation and conservation efforts.
“It’s important to involve youth in the fight against climate change,” she said. “With their education, it’s easy for them to access and easily understand climate change information.”
She continued, “And with their unemployment status, if they don’t participate in the climate change fight, our communities will continue to experience poverty.”
For everyone in her community, land rights are critical for promoting sustainable land use practices and for building climate resilience. With secure land rights, she said that community members are willing to make climate friendly investments like improved irrigation, soil conservation, or tree planting, without fear of being evicted or removed from their land. For her community, that sense of security – of a life free from fear – makes all the difference.
“I wish to see my community economically prospering, where everyone lives in a decent house, free from climate change stresses, and where community land is properly managed,” Catherine said. “I dream of a community with secure land rights, where people are free of fear to lose their land and can use their land sustainably – especially women.”