Turning Up The Heat: Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda

Turning Up the Heat: Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda
Report embargoed until 17th July 2008
People in Uganda, whose contribution to global warming has been miniscule, are feeling the impacts of climate change first and worst. On the one hand there is more erratic rainfall in the March to June rainy season, bringing drought and reductions in crop yields and plant varieties; on the other hand the rainfall, especially in the later rains towards the end of the year, is reported as coming in more intense and destructive downpours, bringing floods, landslides and soil erosion. In the future, climate scientists say that one of the most likely effects of climate change will be more rain, especially in the second rains from October to December. ”

“Turning Up the Heat: Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda," a new report from the development agency Oxfam, examines the impacts of climate changes on agriculture, on pastoralism, on health and water and consequently, on poverty.

Based on interviews with farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, district agricultural and environmental officers and government officials, it quotes their experiences of how climate shocks undermine health and well-being, the economy and the overall development of the country. In particular, food insecurity in Uganda is a major challenge and climate shocks are making food insecurity worse, and impacts are greatest on the lives of ordinary people, and especially women, frustrating their efforts to overcome poverty. Climate change does not happen in isolation. It interacts with existing problems and challenges – notably deforestation, soil degradation, declining food security, declining fish stocks, poverty and ill health – and makes them worse.

The government of Uganda is planning how the country can adapt to climate change, and how these measures can be aligned to poverty reduction strategies. For a start, Uganda is beginning to look for nearly $US 40 million to implement immediate and urgent adaptation measures (in it’s National Adaptation Programmes of Action, or NAPA). It may only get a fraction of what it needs from the international community. Yet this is in the context that, for example, a rise of 2 degrees in temperature would probably wipe out most of Uganda’s coffee production, upon which some five million people rely directly or indirectly, and which earns the country several hundred million dollars a year.

Adaptation has to start with adaptation to the current climate. The people of Uganda are highly susceptible to present climatic variations and shocks. Building resilience to how the climate is currently changing is vital both in its own right and as a way to build resilience to whatever climatic changes the future has in store. The right strategies to adapt to climate change will also be the right strategies for truly sustainable development, and to reduce poverty, if properly implemented.

Oxfam hopes that this report will raise awareness of the impacts of climate change among Ugandan society, and through building constructive dialogue, contribute to improving and strengthening the NAPA and other national adaptation strategies. The report aims to strengthen Uganda’s case that the costs of adaptation, starting with the most immediate and urgent tasks identified in the NAPA, be financed as quickly as possible and in full.

Ugandan meteorologists and farmers report the same phenomena: in most districts, recent years have witnessed increasingly erratic onset and cessation of the rainfall seasons, and when the rain comes it is heavier and more violent. As one farmer graphically put it: “Less rain means less food”. Baluku Yofesi of Kasese said: “Because of the shortened rains you have to go for early maturing varieties and now people are trying to select these. We need things that mature in two months - maize needs three months of rain to grow so two months is not enough…because of the reduction in traditional varieties we have poorer nutrition…and because of malnutrition there’s an increased susceptibility to disease. Children can’t concentrate at school”.

The main impacts are: lower yields of staple foods like beans, cassava, maize and matoke; reduction in traditional varieties; and more crop diseases. Women who grow most of the food crops and do most of the labour particularly feel the impacts. One woman farmer, Florence Madamu of Bulirehe village in Bundibugyo said: “We have stopped even adopting seasonal planting because it’s so useless. Now we just try all the time. We used to plant in March and that’d be it. Now we plant and plant again. We waste a lot of seeds that way, and our time and energy…Sometimes you feel like crying”.

Coffee is one of Uganda’s main foreign exchange earners. But there are signs of trouble because of climatic changes. Too much rain reduces flowering, which reduces production. It hinders farmers’ ability to dry the beans properly, so the quality is also reduced. It also increases diseases, pests and mould, which hits both production and quality. Small-scale farmers produce almost all of Uganda’s coffee so the result has been hardship for many. Willington Wamayeye, Managing Director of Gumutindo coffee co-operative on Mount Elgon, said: “Last year alone we lost 40% of our production. As a result, people struggle for everything”.

Pastoralism may be one of the most appropriate forms of livelihood in the face of climate change. Even a small increase in rainfall in semi-arid areas could be beneficial for pastures and herders like the Karimojong, provided they are able to be mobile to take advantage of the rains. Currently, however, more droughts are occurring. Martina Longom of Jie near Kotido said: “The riverbeds have dried up…only hard rock is found beneath them. There is a lot of thirst”. Droughts combined with restrictions on pastoralist’s mobility cause competing demands for domestic use and livestock and increase tensions and water conflicts.

At the same time as there is more drought, heavy rains increase the danger of flooding. An agricultural officer in Teso summed up the double blow for pastoralists: “Droughts means there’s hardly any pasture and floods means there is no grass”.

[Note: A new Oxfam International Briefing Paper 'Pastoralism and Climate change in East Africa: Survival of the Fittest' will be released around the end of July and looks at these issues in more depth and across the East Africa region].

Health and water:
Health is intimately connected to water – too much or too little, at the wrong time or in the wrong place or polluted. Ugandans cite ill-health as the most immediate cause of falling into poverty. The Oxfam report includes the example of the Teso floods of 2007 to show the health impacts of a more vigorous hydrological cycle. The floods brought increased prevalence of water borne diseases, destruction of crop fields and a consequent increase in hunger and suffering. If Uganda becomes wetter, so floods will become more likely, a product not only of higher rainfall and run-off but also of land use changes such as the draining of swamps, and in cities, blocked drains.

Ugandans suffer energy shortages of many sorts. One of the biggest crises facing the country - in relation to poverty, women’s health and climate change all together -, is the basic need for fuel for cooking and water heating, which comes in the form of firewood, charcoal and crop residues. Wood is also cut for construction. Furthermore, because of escalating prices for paraffin and for electricity, and because of power cuts – in part caused by lower levels in Lake Victoria – many urban dwellers have turned back to firewood and charcoal for cooking.

Ultimately, measures to combat deforestation will involve land management policies and incentives for caring for trees, possibly involving compensation from national and international sources. However, the rate of deforestation could be slowed if Ugandans had more efficient stoves that use less wood.

Environmental governance:
Uganda has good laws to protect the environment and environmental action plans at various levels but the report draws attention to challenges, particularly poor enforcement and insufficient allocation of resources to environmental concerns both in local government and national agencies. The multiplier effects include the increase in encroachment on the national parks by surrounding communities.

Some interviewees felt that attitudes are changing, initiatives being taken and things improving at local level in some places. Tackling local environmental problems will secure more resources for people both to deal with their immediate problems and to deal with climate change.

The government’s national adaptation plan:
The report examines in detail Uganda’s National Adaptation Programmes of Action, or NAPA with an interview with Paul Isabirye, Principal Meteorological Officer in the Department of Meteorology. The NAPA would cost nearly $US 40 million to implement in full and it identifies a series of sectoral interventions, including community tree growing, land degradation management, community water and sanitation, water for production and drought adaptation.

Consultations on how best to implement the plans have now started, and then the government will seek funding from an international fund created to finance the NAPAs in least-developed countries. However, this fund is reliant purely on voluntary contributions from rich nations, and contains a mere fraction of what is needed. According to Oxfam, some $2 billion will be needed across all developing countries to fund NAPAs alone, and far, far more for all eventual adaptation needs; yet only $92 million is actually in the NAPAs fund. Uganda’s needs alone would use almost half of that.

Oxfam appeal:
Oxfam believes that increasing people’s capacity to adapt to climate change will achieve a double benefit, by contributing to the goal of overcoming poverty and suffering in Uganda and achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Internationally, Oxfam is campaigning that industrialised countries must rapidly and drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. That is absolutely essential. Rich countries must also make sure that no NAPA fails for lack of finance, and must go on to fund adaptation costs in full and in addition to aid commitments.

In Uganda Oxfam’s suggestions for action include: implementing the NAPA and then longer-term adaptation through strong leadership and community involvement; taking the management and sustainability of natural resources seriously and as the fundamental basis of development planning; investing in agriculture, especially rain-fed agriculture; strengthening pastoralism, including enhancing mobility rights and providing basic services like health and education; planting trees and promoting renewable energy; boosting meteorology and getting weather and climate information to people; securing water supplies for people and ecosystems; improving health; and identifying risks, reducing them and preparing for climate related disasters, including preparing for unpredictable events.

“Turning Up the Heat: Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda” is available from Oxfam GB in Uganda, Plot No 3459, Tank Hill Road, Muyenga, PO Box 6228, Kampala, Uganda.

It is also available online at: www.oxfam.org.uk/publications Search for “Turning up the Heat: Climate change and Poverty in Uganda” or use ISBN 978-1-84814-039-4
Or access via the Oxfam website climate change pages – go to www.oxfam.org.uk/oxfam_in_action/issues/climate

For further information contact Kampala@oxfam.org.uk

Media information: contact Maria Tusingwire
Policy and Communication Co-ordinator
Oxfam GB in Uganda
Tel: +256 41 4390534 or +256 312 263996/7
Cell: +256 772 710021
Fax : +256 41 4510242
email: mtusingwire@oxfam.org.uk

Climate change and poverty mapping of Uganda.

North Uganda: Primary hazards: conflict, ethnic violence, cattle rustling, drought, and floods. 2007 floods from July to November followed heaviest rain for 35 years. Hundreds of thousands of people affected, crops destroyed, increase in water-borne diseases. Cultivation of swamps meant soils are less able to absorb water.

Rwenzori regions: Primary hazards: Landslides, floods, and refugee influx. In highlands, loss of fertile soil increasing land pressures. Reduced rainy season hitting yields of basic food crops like beans. Mountain icecaps receded by 40% of 1955 cover. May ultimately reduce year-round water flows in Semliki River.

Karamoja regions: Primary hazards: Drought, conflict, ethnic violence, and cattle rustling. Seven droughts between 1991-2000 increase food insecurity, animal losses. Increased conflict over water. Tick-borne diseases increase, tsetse belt expands, dust storms increase chest and eye infections.

Elgon and Teso regions: Primary hazards: Landslides, floods, and refugee influx. Increased deforestation as farmers forced to higher levels. Species loss. May be one of the few areas still able to grow coffee if temperatures rise 2 degrees, likely to reduce coffee growing areas to one-tenth of their former size.

South-West: Fastest warming region, 0.3 degrees C per decade with more frequent, severe drought. Becoming unsuitable for coffee. Dairy cattle yields fall due to heat stress. Malaria is at epidemic proportions. Mbarara – 135% increase in malaria cases.

Kampala: More intense rain, inadequate waste disposal, drainage problems and encroachment on wetlands increase risk of floods, urban disruption, diarrhoea and dysentery.

Lake Victoria: Hotter temperatures likely to lead to lower outflows, hitting hydropower generation. Drought, loss of lakeside tree cover and over-extraction have affected the rainfall cycle and reduced lake levels to lowest for 60 years.


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Poverty in Uganda is the severe one. I have listened a lot about poverty in Uganda and the rest of the world should help the Uganda to control the poverty. During my ccnp, i read an article about this