Climate Change is Not Just About the Climate, it is About Our Lives

Marisa Marcavillaca photo

Image credit: Ilene Perlman/Oxfam America
This guest post was written by Marisa Marcavillaca, farmer and leader of a National Indigenous Women's Organization, FEMUCARINAP, Peru, courtesy of Oxfam America.

You may know my region, Cusco, because it is home to the world famous Machu Picchu. But you may not know that my neighbors and I, as well as Machu Picchu, are suffering because of climate change.The climate has changed a lot in my community. There is rain and frost when we are not expecting it, affecting what we are able to grow, our health, our economy, the education of our children and even our culture. Temperature increases bring new diseases and pests that affect the crops. The growing season is now irregular, leaving us with a smaller harvest and seeds that under-produce year after year.

This year, the rains began in January and did not stop. It rained day and night, the rivers rose to three times their normal height and with them, they took our houses bridges, railroad tracks, and sadly even some of our lives. Our irrigation canals were lost, transportation routes destroyed. Even Machu Picchu was closed for two months due to the destructive rains. Many of us are without work, since this global attraction provides many jobs in the area.

These extreme changes in the climate do not only impact our land; they affect how much we earn and what food we put on the table for our children. If our products are not of good quality, we get lower prices. If there are fewer products, the cost to buy what we need to eat goes up. If we are not able to grow enough food to eat, the women in my village are forced to look for other work that is often lower paying. If we don't have enough money to buy food, we go hungry. Without enough money, we cannot afford to buy our children the supplies they need to attend school.

The impact on women is even more significant. Often, women will go hungry if there is not enough food, giving whatever we have to the men and children. If there is not enough money to send all of the children to school, it is often the young girls who end up staying home while the boys are able to go and learn.

We are trying to do what we can to adapt to the situation. We have organized and learned what plants can help us fight disease in our crops. We have built reservoirs for when it is too dry and our crops need water. Working with our local officials, we are trying to get support for repairing and adapting irrigation systems of greater efficiency so that we can grow more crops with less irrigation water. We are growing our products organically, and we are joining together to ensure the best prices for all the farmers in the region.

While we are doing what we can to help ourselves, we can't do it alone. That's why I headed to Washington, DC, to bring this story, my story, and the story of the people of Cusco to those in power in the United States. As lawmakers consider how to tackle climate change, they must not forget us poor and vulnerable people who are dealing with it every day.

Climate change is not just about the climate; it is about our lives. And it's not only about emissions; it's about adapting to the negative impacts of climate change that will continue to happen no matter how fast we reduce emissions.

Read more dispatches:
It's not God, it's Climate Change
Olivia Zaleski Talks to Dessima Williams About the Plight of Island Nations
Climate Change-Induced Drought Causing Crop Failure, Livestock Problems in Indian Himalayas

Climate Change is Not Just About the Climate, it is About Our Lives
You may know my region, Cusco, because it is

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