NAIROBI, Kenya — The short rainy season is supposed to start in Kenya in the beginning of October. But this year the first raindrops fell almost a month late, after the news was already full of desperate cattle herders and farmers pleading for water, physically fighting over desiccated water holes. As the October heat wave held its breath in anticipation of the rains, the thunderclouds massed over the streets of Nairobi as if to tease, but the rains did not come on time.
As politicians in America quibble over the existence of global warming, climate change has already become such a part of the lexicon in rural Africa that people discuss it in tandem with the weather, talking of "the Change" with a capital C. When the rainy season becomes increasingly erratic, subsistence farmers do not know when to plant their crops. Living hand-to-mouth with no other options and no margin for error, they can lose an entire harvest when the rains are late.
Increasingly, sisters are discovering that the first victims of climate change are the people they are already serving — the poorest of the poor. Long before Pope Francis codified "care for our common home" in Laudato Si', sisters have been working to encourage environmental projects.
At the "Catholic Sisters: Champions of Sustainable Development in Africa," which convened in Nairobi from Oct. 16 to 19, women religious discussed ways their congregations are working toward protecting the environment, especially for the marginalized people they already serve. Sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the African Sisters Education Collaborative, the convention focused on fostering partnerships and the U.N.'s agenda for fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.