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When sunshine is a cause of hunger

Data out of Africa helps Devon pupils realise the importance of a stable climate

When it does not rain for a while in England, there is usually a hosepipe ban.

But pupils at Tipton St John primary in Devon are learning how the weather can have a more dramatic effect on people's health, well-being and diet.

The Sidmouth primary has been linked with Busingiro and Kalengeija primary schools in the Masindi district in Uganda to mark World Met Day, an annual event to celebrate the forming of the World Meteorological Organisation.

Pupils at both schools have been taking part in similar tasks and exchanging data by email. Some of the results have been startling.

Teacher Rod Crook said: "The children made solar ovens out of black boxes with kitchen foil inside and placed various food items inside to see how quickly they would cook when placed in the sun.

"When they compared their results with those of schools in Uganda it emerged there were huge variations in temperatures. Ours measured about 27 degrees Celsius, but in Uganda they went up to 74 degrees.

"The children were amazed. It helped them to understand how difficult life can be in Africa because of the weather."

The theme of the link is "weather, climate, water and sustainable development".

Pupils are finding out how the growing global population, poverty, access to fresh water, and food production are linked to climate change.

They have learned, for example, that by 2020 up to 75 per cent of the world's population could be affected by flood and drought, and the number of climate-related disasters could be as high as 245 a year.

In Uganda, the threat of a weather-related disaster is always present and many children face hunger through drought.

Barbara Harvey, from the Link Development Community, which helped organise the project in Uganda, said: "The parents of most of the children are peasant farmers who are totally reliant on a regular and predictable weather pattern, which they do not always have.

"They are aware of climate change because it has a direct impact on their lives, and whether their crops will grow and whether they will eat or not.

Weather is really important to the children."

Pupils at Tipton St John have been investigating ways of harnessing the weather to provide energy, including making solar panels, ovens and wind turbines.

Mr Crook added: "Sharing this information with children in Africa has made our pupils very aware of the power of weather. The link has been incorporated into lessons in science, technology, geography and citizenship. We are a small rural school, with only one black child, so it is wonderful for the children to have this sort of contact."

Gill Ryall, head of the international activities team at the Met Office, said: "We hope that getting these children involved in weather early will foster a lifelong interest in the natural environment."

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