Margaret Balikagala is the Youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Programme Coordinator for Restless Development in Uganda. In this post for the #CoolerPlanet series, she looks at the various impacts climate change has on Uganda.
Increase in average temperatures, change in rainfall patterns and total annual rainfall amounts are the most critical climate change issues in Uganda. The implications for the Ugandan people are significant, with a change in temperature having an effect on water resources, food security, natural resource management, human health, housing and infrastructure. Meanwhile the rain causes flooding, which affects transportation, housing, social services and people’s livelihoods.
Unpredictable rainfall patterns have resulted in changing growing seasons and reduced water availability. This has several knock on effects. Many Ugandans depend on rain-fed agriculture and less rain means less food availability, accessibility and utilization. With a majority depending on agriculture for jobs, it has an effect on income levels too. All of this disruption increases the chances of conflict and displacement in the country(Odingo 1990, FAO 1999).
For the last twenty years, Uganda has experienced seven droughts with regular incidences of extreme temperature, seasonal shifts and reduction of rainfall (OXFAM, 2008). Yet, Uganda is currently embarking on rapid industrialization at the expense of the environment. Many wetlands have been degraded for purposes of industrial development. Wetlands play a very vital role in carbon sequestration and their destruction has an impact on climate.
Failure by the Government to fulfil its commitment to climate change adaptation and mitigation makes the whole situation worse. While the Government often commits to combating climate change, implementation and enforcement of climate related policies is still a big challenge in Uganda.
Climate change has also resulted in the proliferation of diseases in some areas in Uganda that were initially disease free. For example the traditionally cooler Rwenzori region now suffers from malaria causing mosquitoes due to increases in temperatures.
Snow caps in the mountainous regions have been melting and, along with too much rainfall, this has increased the frequency of flooding and mudslides. Again impacting on agriculture and also contributing to the spread of diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera. An outbreak of cholera in Kampala, for example, has been attributed to too much rainfall and poor disposal of faecal material within some areas in the city.
I am pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental science and focusing my research on the Impact of climate change on water resources and livelihoods in Iganga District. The district has not effectively and comprehensively dealt with climate change problems due to lack of an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of climate change, its effects on water supply and demand, and the broader impacts on welfare in the region. The fewer studies and publications have focused on the broader national impact of climate and different regions in the country that have been uniquely affected by climate changes.
My hope for the future regarding climate change is that more people will become more concerned about this phenomenon and take an active role through specific actions such reduced use of fuelwood and the increased use of public transport. This will only be possible with increased awareness raising and subsidisation by the government of cleaner energies for everyone.