In Uganda, as in many other countries in Africa, the stresses of climate change are already being felt. The changing weather patterns are affecting the countries largely substance economy, which is affecting heavily reliant on rainfall for agriculture.
The country is now faced with prolonged dry spells in the north and eastern, hot temperatures in the central, flooding near river banks, lakes, and swamps as well as several mudslides around the Elgon and Kasese regions that routinely wash clean farm lands and homesteads.
In the rural wetland community of Ngora district, where most people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, scarcity of resources because of environmental degradation is a driver of gender based violence and climate change writes the effects.
During the dry season, women and girls move frequent and longer journeys to look for water, firewood, food, which makes them more vulnerable to all kinds of danger along the way and violence upon reforming home.
In Agirigiroi sub county, Harriet Alupo, a mother of five is one of the women who has experienced violence because she delayed to return home from fetching firewood.
“As you see, our village is now bare without bushes. We collect firewood from kapujan, a village across the river and we sail by boat”. She narrated.
Alupo at the time of the interview still had visible marks on her face from the fight with her husband, she narrated that on one fateful day, she had travelled to search for firewood but upon return, she found her husband furious at home accusing her of intentionally delaying to go back home.
“When I arrived home, he asked me why I delayed and I told him that there was no boat from across the water to bring me back in time. He said I was lying and he started beating me,” she narrated.
Tough Times Ahead
In Katakwi district, locals are bracing for tough times ahead, as communities are bed lived with heavy deforestation in the region contributing to high temperatures, prolonged dry spells, for a largely agricultural community, with members fearing that some of the tree species may soon become extinct.
“We are worried about the current state of environment and weather patterns,” said Anthony Opus a father of two.
Opus who was carrying his four year old son was at the time of an interview added that in Aujo-Ongaba Village, some influential people illegally cutting down trees. So when our children grow up tomorrow, they may not have any idea about some tree species.
Peter Okwi, the LC1 chairperson for Acuuma Village, Guyaguya sub-county in Katakwi district said that his village lost more than 100trees to illegal loggers within a very short time frame, urging that locals voluntarily sell trees as a means of survival clue to abject poverty in the area.
“When I tried to raise a voice, I was told that I laced the authority to stop them (illegal bloggers). One day they even ganged up against me and laid a road block for me. They said I am interfering them with their business,” said Okwi.
Apparently, buyers pay between 20.000/= to 30.000/= with each felled fetching up two trucks full of wood for cooking, making charcoal or burning bricks.
Mr. Otim Amos, the LCIII for Guyaguya Sub-county fears that the negative effects of logging and mass destruction of forests is already manifested inform of increased heat, temperatures and drought that could eventually cause desertification which is already being experienced in the neighboring Karamoja region.
“My Sub-County is at the border with Karamoja and we all know how hot that region is, now the only tress that are guarding this area are being cut down which means that we are proved to suffer.”
Extent of the Problem
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) estimates that Uganda has lost 63% of its natural forests in search for firewood, timber or charcoal in the past 25years.
Figures further show that Uganda’s forest cover has now been depleted to 8% from 24% of the land cover in 1990 as a result of human encroachment. The global Forests watch reveal that Uganda had 6.93% million Lectures of tree cover, extending to cover 29% of its land area in 2010, but by 2020 it had lost 73.6 kilo lectaves of tree cover equating to at least 36.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide polluted into the air, during this period.
What is being done?
In Katakwi district, locals are learning how to make eco-friendly cooking stoves using local materials (clay and Grass).
Jennifer Alungat, a mother of six from Angobo village, Katakwi Sub-County is one of the women championing with the use of the locally made cook stores, which does not encourage use of wood for cooking.
“Before I leant how to make these cook stores, I would use one bunch of wood for cooking in a day, but now all I need four twig in a day”, said Alungat.
Alungat is one of the 200 households who were being trained by partners for children worldwide, in partnership with child fund Uganda and Lango child and Community Federation.
Mr. Anyumel Pius, the Project officer for partner of children World Wide Uganda said at the inception of the project, they found that wide spread of poverty and the need for wood fuel for household use, were key drivers of deforestation in the region.
“But another question came up; what type of Energy saving stove? Because the one for charcoal will require at least a basin full per day. So we said, let us design an energy saving stove that will need that will need very little firewood”, Said Mr. Anyumel.
Mr. Anyumel added that they were able to develop energy saving stoves which community members were trained to make from local materials using clay and grass it uses five twinges per day.
“At the moment, we have trained 216 households in the regions of Teso and Lango (North and North Eastern Uganda) in the pilot implementation of the project and we believe that those sampled will be able to train other community members,” he said.
Ms. Violet Akurut Adome, a former woman Member of Parliament for Katakwi district and former member of the parliamentary forum for climate change said during her term of service as a legislator (2016-2021), they had advocated for more programs on sensitization of communities on issues about the effects of environmental destruction and climate change.
“The issues about climate change are not supposed to be told lightly, we said we should make the people clearly understand what is coming ahead of time if they continue destroying the environment”.
Honorable (Hon.) Opolot Simon Peter Okwalinga, the Member of Parliament representing the people of Kanyumu County, Kumi district said the 11th parliament is passing laws around environment.
“As legislators we are having discussions with the NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority) and we are looking at adding more weight to the existing environmental laws in our country,” he said.
Hon. Opolot also added that he currently requests for tree seedlings from the National Forestry Authority, which he distributes to his constiments.
Hon Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s minister of states for works and transport who also served as the Minister of States for disaster preparedness and refugees, said the effects of climate change in Uganda have gone beyond just causing violence at household level, but led to loss of life.
“But you have heard of what has always happened in Bududa, where people have been buried by landslides, in areas like Kasese, where roads have been washed away, and disconnecting pregnant mothers from accessing health facilities. This gives you a highlight on how we as Ugandans should take climate issues more seriously,” said the Minister.
Uganda’s Pledge to combat Climate Change
In 2018, Uganda became the first African country to ratify the Pans agreement and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a plan intended to cut down green gas emissions and build the country’s resilience to combat negative impacts on climate change.
In adopting the 2028 climate change policy to fulfill commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement, Uganda sought to address its vulnerabilities to the negative effects of climate change as government pledged to harmonize and promote actions to encourage a green economy through embarking on a natural forestry program to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in Uganda.
The Policy also sought to encourage good agricultural practices like agro-forestry, as well as strengthening forestry research conservation and forestation of natural forest ecosystems, which one critically threatened by the adverse impacts of climate change.
However, three years down the road since the inception of the climate change and forestry policies; and more than five years after the country committed to the Pans agreements on the 2030 agenda for sustainable development; and a month after Uganda renewed its commitments to mitigate climate change by signing the Glasgow leaders declaration on forests and land use at the 26th climate change conference (COP26) alongside other 120 nations with the collective aim of reversing and halting Forest loss and land degradation by 2030, the climate remains potent for the country to deal with these obligations and commitments.
Although there are some initiatives being done to promote climate change adaptation and mitigation, including limiting the human encroachment on forest cover, evidence on the ground shows that work is still cut out for the government to do in order to achieve the global net-zero of gas emissions by 2050.
While requesting the country at the COP26, President Museveni expressed Uganda’s commitment towards agenda 2040 to combat climate change; calling for urgent measures to avert the current climate crisis.
However, what remains to be seen, is for the country to follow up on natural and global commitments to protect and restore forests where the government must play a leading role in mobilizing citizens to deliver on aspiration to mitigate impacts given the challenges already being experienced by the country.
The production of this report was supported by CFI Dunia Project.