Today is Earth Day, an opportunity to step back and appreciate the care and detail God put into creating our universe. God is an amazing artist, and He has set creation before us to show us His glory and remind us of His love. Psalm 95:3-5 tells us: "For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land." In Seattle, where I live, this verse comes to life all the time -- natural beauty is evident all around me. Lush green trees, beautiful mountain ranges, numerous lakes, and the Puget Sound remind me of God’s creativity and craftsmanship daily. Spring has brought cherry blossoms and daffodils in abundance. Everywhere I look, I see His awe-inspiring creation.
Earth Day is also a chance to look at how we can be a part of caring for God’s creation. I typically associate that with recycling more, driving less, and finding new uses for old items. But what I have learned since coming to work for World Vision is that caring for the planet can help improve the lives of the poor. Utilizing natural resources and innovative agricultural techniques can benefit people in need and the Earth at the same time. An example of this can be seen in the Horn of Africa, where a historic drought last year led to a hunger crisis and, in some areas, even famine. Without water, every other natural resource inevitably suffers. Soil hardens and becomes impossible to farm, animals struggle to survive, and people go hungry. In response, World Vision has found strategies to help reverse the effects of drought that benefit people and the land. These strategies have been applied in the Horn of Africa, and more recently in West Africa, as drought and hunger escalate there. Read more about them below. (Reporting by James Addis.)
1. Rainwater harvesting
Flashes of heavy rainfall do occur in arid regions in the Horn. This water can be captured using pans or retention ditches. Other approaches include “zai pits.” These pits are two feet deep, lined with dry grass, filled with manure and top soil, and ready for planting. The pits retain water for longer periods and facilitate healthy crop growth.
Irrigation makes effective use of available water by channeling it toward thirsty crops. In addition to providing effective watering, farmers no longer have to spend long hours fetching and applying water.
Saf Balde, 8, sits in a papaya tree in Senegal. (Photo: David duChemin/World Vision)
Trees retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and inhibit soil erosion. By planting trees, barren landscapes can be turned green and used for planting and grazing.
4. Drought-tolerant crops
World Vision promotes crops that survive even when rainfall is limited, such as sorghum, millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava, and sweet potato.
5. Fruit trees
Fruit trees are often drought-tolerant, especially if grown in conjunction with rainwater harvesting technologies. World Vision promotes mangoes, citrus, papayas, and assorted native fruits.
No rain or land is required to produce mushrooms, as they can be grown indoors. Mushrooms are a good source of nutrition and can be sold for income.
Greenhouses allow for high yields from small plots of land and can make efficient use of limited water through drip-irrigation systems.
Goats can survive harsh conditions. World Vision is introducing larger breeds, which supply more meat and milk and attract higher prices.
What other environmental techniques should be considered to care for the Earth and help those who are affected by natural disasters like droughts? Share your thoughts with us!