Juliet Alinda had planted bananas, cassava and potatoes on a three-acre piece of land in Kijumbya village, in Buliisa subcounty in Buliisa District. Little did she know, that the onset of a prolonged dry season would ravage her crops.
“The dry season destroyed all my crops which were my only source of food and income for my family,” Alinda says.
The 32-year-old mother of seven is now struggling to fend food for her family.
“I offer casual labour to some neighbours who in turn give me some food. When I have some money, I buy food which I used not to do during the rainy season” she says. Alinda is one of the people in Bunyoro sub-region whose livelihoods have been ravaged by climatic change.
Bunyoro gets two rainy seasons annually, which farmers usually utilise to plant crops.
Rains are usually expected to start in February and end in late May, the Hoima district Production agricultural coordinator Dr Charles Kajura says.
“They are expected to resume in September and end around late November. But due to climate change, the rains are unpredictable,” he adds. The rains either come early or later than anticipated. The prolonged drought that hit Bunyoro started in November 2014 and ended in late March when the rains started. The drought left many crops dry and livestock malnourished.
Effects on soils
Although rains finally came, the damage which the prolonged drought inflicted on the families is grave.
Dr Kajura says climatic changes are affecting soil fertility and the planning cycle of farmers and agriculturalists.
“Due to climatic changes, farmers now have to use a lot of pesticides to kill or prevent the pests which are rampant” he observes.
Today farmers also use a lot of fertilisers due to reduction in soil fertility, which was not the case in the past when the rains were more reliable.
The climatic changes have affected food security, domestic relations and school attendance. Women who traditionally have a responsibility of growing crops, fetching water and caring for children have been adversely affected by.
“The women are travelling long distances to access water for domestic use. Families in towns have to meet the increased costs of water. A 20-litre jerry can has increased from Shs 500 to Shs 1,000,” Beatrice Rukanyanga, the chairperson of Kwataniza Women Farmers Group in Hoima District said. The group of more than 30 women in Buseruka Sub-county are engaged in farming, advocacy for environmental conservation, land rights and access to natural resources.
“Most fruit trees which we had planted have dried up. There is worry that famine may break out because families are almost finishing the food they had stored from their previous harvests,” Rukanyanga said.
The dry season caused some water sources to dry up while those that did not dry during the prolonged drought, reduced in water volumes.
Prolonged dry spells have affected food production, especially in areas on top of the rift valley escarpment in Buseruka, Kigorobya and Kiziranfumbi Sub-counties.
Disappearance of vegetation in the rift valley area has resulted into women travelling long distances, putting in a lot of time in fetching firewood.
“This exposes women to other dangers like rape and risks of being attacked by wild animal, the fact that firewood places are found in the wildlife reserve” Allan Kalangi,the sustainability school manager at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists(NAPE) observes.
The thousands of fishing communities that derive their livelihood from Lake Albert are now grappling with the reduction in fish catches.
The increased temperature has affected fish breeding on Lake Albert. Coupled with the poor and illegal fishing practices on the lake, Dr Kajura says fish catches have reduced because fishermen do not allow fish stocks in the lake to regenerate.
Agricultural and environmental experts argue that women have been affected most, the fact that they are the ones responsible for preparing food and getting all other domestic needs met.
Their household incomes to have been affected since majority of them are involved in petty trade in fish.
Chebet Maikut, the head of Uganda’s Department of Climate Change, ministry of Water and Environment, acknowledges that Uganda has experienced significant evidence of global warming from the 1960s with an average temperature increase and wide variability between episodes of wet and very wet years and decades.
“This means agriculture, food security, land use, forest, health water, fisheries, biodiversity and tourism are particularly vulnerable and require special attention,” he said.
Bunyoro is one of Uganda’s regions affected by climate change. The residents in the region are grappling with the changes. They certainly need education and capacity building on climate change mitigation and adaptation if they are to minimise the impacts of the changes.
In recent years, Uganda has experienced adverse climatic changes as evidenced by prolonged droughts, landslides, mudslides, hailstorms, lightening among others.
Chebet Maikut, the head of Uganda’s Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Water and Environment, says the Albertine region has one of Uganda’s fragile ecological systems that are affected by climate change.
Maikut says the Ministry o has produced climate change mainstreaming guidelines on the government and non-state actors integrating climate change in development programmes and projects.
The study of economic impacts of climate change in Uganda’s key sectors has been undertaken by the Baastel consortium with support from Climate & development Knowledge Network (CDKN). The study predicts that Climate and socioeconomic change will lead to deficits in water supply.
The study projects that most crops show reductions in total production under almost all climate scenarios. For example, yields of staple crops such as sweet potatoes and cassava could reduce by 40 per cent by mid-century.
The government has integrated climate change in its second National Development Plan for 2015/16-2019/20.
David Mfitumukiza, a climate adaptation specialist, says the University has set up the Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI), at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).
“MUCCRI is motivated by the need to strengthen climate change research, innovations and information dissemination” he says.