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‘Solidari-tea’ from Coleraine

Coleraine supporters of Christian Aid are celebrating the success of communities in Zimbabwe overcoming drought, hunger and extreme poverty, through projects that help them earn a living, such as the growing and harvesting of hibiscus – a plant that can be used to make herbal tea.

Pauline Connor, the charity’s representative at Terrace Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine, raised a cup of tea during the recent Christian Aid Week to say ‘cheers’ to women farmers like Agnes Machona, who comes from a drought-prone region of Zimbabwe and is now able to earn a living to support herself and her children.

Christian Aid’s local partner in Zimbabwe has helped Agnes to grow and harvest hibiscus flowers because the plant tolerates drought, as well as helping her find commercial buyers for her crop.

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Assisting Pauline with her fundraising are Irene Kinghan and Ann Kirkland who are members of the same church.

Coleraine supporters of Christian Aid celebrate the success of women in Zimbabwe who have overcome drought to provide for their families by growing drought-tolerant hibiscus tea. L-R, Irene Kinghan, Pauline Connor and Ann Kirkland are members of Terrace Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine. Credit: Helen Newell/Christian Aid

The three women stood in ‘solidari-tea’ on Christian Aid Week to highlight the agency’s work in eastern Zimbabwe, which has helped 27,000 people cope with poor rainfall made worse by rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Agnes Machona (37) and her husband have three children. To support the family, her husband works in the construction industry in Botswana while Agnes stays at home to work their farm and raise their children. Severe drought in recent years has caused Agnes’ crops to fail and she recalls a time when there was so little food that she had to cut back to just one meal a day, even though she was breastfeeding. She was losing weight and couldn’t produce enough milk to feed her baby.

Agnes is not solely reliant on the income she earns by selling her hibiscus tea. Christian Aid’s local partner has also installed a solar-powered water pump to irrigate a community garden, enabling Agnes and the other women in her community to grow vegetables for consumption and surplus to sell for cash.

Christian Aid Ireland Chief Executive Rosamond Bennett said: “Some of the poorest people in the world are living on the frontline of the climate crisis.

Agnes Machona shows off a cup of the herbal tea she’s made with hibiscus she’s grown herself. Diversifying into drought-resistant hibiscus production has allowed Agnes to earn enough money to feed her family despite poor rainfall. Credit: Christian Aid/David Brazier

“Extreme weather wreaks havoc on harvests, pushing millions further into poverty. Drought left Agnes and others in her community struggling to feed their families but today they are thriving, thanks to the support they receive from Christian Aid’s local partner in Zimbabwe.

T”his success is made possible by the generosity of our supporters and with their continued help this Christian Aid Week, we can reach even more people like Agnes.”

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Agnes Machona stands in her field in the semi-arid Mutoko district of eastern Zimbabwe where poor rainfall often leads to crop failure and hunger. Agnes recalls one year when the drought became so severe that she was eating only one meal a day, losing weight and couldn’t make enough milk to feed her baby. Credit: Christian Aid/David Brazier
Today, Agnes is growing red peppers, beans and other vegetables - enough to eat and surplus to sell for cash - thanks to a solar-powered water pump installed by Christian Aid’s local partner. Credit: Christian Aid/David Brazier