By Staff Writer
HARARE-Faith based  communities in Southern Africa, under the Southern Africa, Faith Communities have begun taking interest in Climate Change issues affecting the region, according to a recent research conducted in Zimbabwe.
They have been meeting under the umbrella body of the Southern African Faith Communities Environmental Institute, SAFCEI and the Interdenominational Fellowship for Women in which they receive training on Climate Change issues.
SAFCEI is a multi faith organization committed to supporting faith leaders and their communities in Southern Africa to increase awareness, understanding and action taking on eco justice, sustainable living and Climate Change issues.
In Zimbabwean religious groups  under the banner of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, ZCC, have  started combating Climate Change  in the country   after commissioning a research to examine existing Climate Change frameworks  in  the country in order to identify  gaps  that can be filled through a  coordinated approach.
It is estimated that over 80 percent of the Zimbabwean population is directly or indirectly influenced by faith communities.
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches has a mandate to provide enlightened public opinion on issues of national importance and the research is regarded as one such effort in ensuring enlightened debate in: Ecumenical Climate Change Policy Analysis: Zimbabwe.
The study will be utilized in conjunction with “The Zimbabwe Ecumenical Climate Action Programme-2016-2020,” a climate strategic framework for Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe,  Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe and Africa.
“The church is an integral part of the society and is affected by the social, economic, political and environmental issues the same way as other sectors. However there is general lack of knowledge by the people concerning Climate Change issues,” notes the research findings in the introduction section.
“The church is therefore strategically located (both for the policy formulation and implementation and monitoring) to influence community, national, regional and international Climate Change processes,” the research further notes.
According to the findings: “The Church acts as a frontier  of Climate Change vulnerable people as most Climate Change  related impacts are felt among faith communities, who in most cases , turn to the Church  for solutions before they contact  local and or national government.
“The Church has got the power to influence behaviour change on Climate Change  mitigation and adaptation through integrating the subject into Church beliefs. The Church’s voice has capacity to influence policy at all levels as the institution has got strong and active structures from grassroots to international levels,” the report says.
The report says the Church’s welfare is directly affected by the welfare of its members who are vulnerable to Climate Change.
In Southern Africa, the Church has further  responded through different initiatives, including venturing into agricultural activities to improve  food security and livelihoods of communities  through the Economic Justice Network of Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, FOCCISA.
The study essentially sought to find out if there were any existing Climate Change frameworks and if there, how they had addressed Climate Change Challenges and recommendations going forward.
Since 2014, the researchers,  Confidence Tendai Bobo and Tinashe Gumbo  have also been working with small scale food producers  in different parts of Zimbabwe   on the effects of Climate Change.
The research established that Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC have a lot of policy documents that require better and effective   coordination in terms of implementation if they were to be effective.
Civil society’s activities in Climate Change are noted in the report and these include: rain water harvesting, conservation farming on small grains, use of biogas for domestic purposes, energy efficient stoves and campaigns and advocacy initiatives of engaging communities on Climate Change.
The research identified challenges which included among others, multiple and uncoordinated stakeholders, fragmented policy responses,  lack of adequate financial support for Climate Change projects,  too many Climate Change tools which are not ‘speaking to each other’, delays in approving implementation of Climate Change interventions and general lack of knowledge on Climate Change issues.
The findings reveal the existence of opportunities that can be exploited around Climate Change including poverty reduction in the agricultural sector  through water and energy  efficient irrigation systems development,  coupled with breeding  of drought tolerant  crop and animal breeds.
Opportunities include:
# the need to harmonise existing policy documents  to enable effective citizen participation on Climate Change
# existence of many funding opportunities at both global and local levels to combat Climate Change
# potential for collaboration between government and civil society organizations  resulting in shared responsibilities and resources
# enhancing public awareness and increasing knowledge of local communities
According to the concluding remarks on the research : “The study has shown that a conscious  and deliberate effort  to mainstream Climate Change in all the sectors has not been well defined for all the stakeholders  to contribute effectively.  
“At community level, knowledge on the subject (of Climate Change) is still very scanty, making it difficult for the adaptation policies and strategies to bear fruits.” -ACCCKF.
Top Photo: Various Church Leaders in Agreement: File Photo/Arty Events