I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

by Rachel 

If anyone knows anything about Africa, usually they can at least hum the above line from Toto.  It's a great song.  Most of my life I thought the line was "I MISS the rains down in Africa," which I think fits with the longing of the song, but anyway.  I've been thinking about that song a lot lately as Burundi has had a pretty epic rainy season this year.  

Now that we've been living here for 10 years, the dry and rainy seasons (instead of a classic summer/winter pattern seen in northern climates) have become second nature to us.  The rains usually stop in mid to late May, bring in the annual dry season.  Upsides of this would be massive amounts of solar energy for our powerpac, easy drying of clothes on the line, and reliably dry days and nights for outdoor activities.  Downsides would be massive amounts of red dust everywhere!   By September the rains usually return, maybe 3-4 times per week until May (with a one month pause in Dec/Jan).  Obviously if you are a subsistence farmer, these seasons are quite important for the growing of various crops.  In fact, if the rains are late (like a year ago), harvest comes late as well meaning that hunger and malnutrition increase until the harvest arrives.

This year, the rains were a welcome return by the first week of September.  We love the sound of rain on our metal roof, and all the dust washing away.  The profusion of green leaves, grass, etc is pretty amazing in this lush climate.  However, what was NOT normal this year was the volume of rain.  The rains came hard and fast and constant...in fact, there have been weeks where I don't think we saw the sun at all.  There is an aid website called Relief Web that publishes data on things like food security and humanitarian crises.  You can see the table below from the end of December featuring above average rainfall projected through February.  While not as severe as some parts of Kenya, rainfall has been 50-70% more than average this year.

We drove a Burundian friend to Gitega last month and asked him about the community and their thoughts on the rainfall.  He replied that when people see this volume of rain, they worry about famine.  Below are some pictures that Eric and I took on a recent walk around Kibuye.  Notice the brown stalks of corn, dead from flooding, and even the flooded rice patties in the valley.  Rain has also caused some significant erosion behind the hospital as part of the hillside washed away.

Flooding fields and dead corn plants

Erosion behind the hospital

Flooded rice fields

I love rain.  I think it brings green and life and beauty.  But if I was a subsistence farmer living in Burundi, and if my crops died I had no other way to feed my family, I would be worried right now.  Could you pray for our friends and neighbors, that God would provide the right amount of rain for crops to grow?  That they would have enough food to feed their families, even miraculously so?  It's quite possible that numbers will swell in our malnutrition program this spring as well.  You all contributed over $75,000 to that fund in the month of December, which is amazing!  If you'd still like to give, here is the link.

Burundi looked good in this report from November, with only a few regions being "stressed."  This might change in the next report.  Also, as you can see much of the region is in crisis, sometimes due to war in addition to natural factors.

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