How climate change is affecting the lives of people in Northern Uganda
Essay from Jeremiah Lucas Opira Memorial Contest 2023
Author: Lubangakene Innocent Omoo
1st Runner up, Category 2
Climate change refers to the shift in global temperatures and precipitation overtime. It is a long-term alteration in the weather patterns, especially temperature and storm activity. In other words, it is the man made or natural shirt in average atmospheric conditions overtime.
The basic cause is the human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that leads to global warming. The greenhouse gases include methane and halons among others. According to research done by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), there is an increasing rate of deforestation. This destroys the vegetation which increases the concentration of carbon dioxide the atmosphere has, causing a drift in the climate which will steadily grow over time. Indications of climate change include among others an increasing temperature in originally cold regions, changing reasons of rainfall, unreliable (irregular) and little rainfall being received among.
Following the human activities like poor agricultural practices, pastoralism, poor waste management, wetland reclamation and burning of fuel, the climate of Northern Uganda will completely change. But as per the current situation, the climate change is affecting the lives of people living in Nothern Uganda as explained below.
There is increasing water shortage due to the drying of water sources. In Northern Uganda, there are mainly rivers, streams, wetlands like River Achwa along Kitgum-Gulu highway. However, due to climate change, the water sources are drying up leading to deaths of aquatic food species, like fish, that would otherwise have been eaten. In addition, many investors who would want to set up industries in those regions could be scared away due to the scarcity of water, which leads to underdevelopment. Economic activities like fishing are affected, thereby reducing the income of the people and keeping them poor. This explains the low standard of living.
Drought, being one of the results of climate change in Northern Uganda, has seen many people, especially those living in the Northeastern Kotido, Moroto, Kaabong, migrating from the Karimoja regions and settling in other districts. According to research, at least one person dies due to hunger (starvation) per household in the above districts. This reduces the working population which leads to lower labour output and low income. This affects the lives of the people negatively.
Climate change is causing a lot of health-related complications to the people living in Northern Uganda. Due to dust storms, which occur during droughts, many people are often attacked by respiratory diseases like colds and influenza. This leads to deaths, suffering and misery.
Climate change has caused soil erosion and land degradation. This lowers the productivity of the land, thereby limiting certain economic activities like farming. Soil erosion leaves the top fertile soils exposed to erosional agents like wind, animals and running water, which leads to unproductivity of the land. Land degradation lowers the quality of land. All the above affects the food supply as it is reduced as the people of the North mainly depend on sustenance from farmed food. This leads to food shortages which triggers inflation in food prices.
Climate change Is causing conflicts over pasture and water for cattle, as well as an increase in cases of cattle rustling. Many pastoralists, especially from Moroto, Kotido, Abim, Kaabong and Nakapiripirit often move from place to place in search of pasture and water for their cattle. This keeps other economic activities like farming at stake. As the pastoralists move, they are engaged in territorial conflicts with neighbouring districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Agago over pastureland. At times, they also raid cattle using weapons like guns, causing death, injury and general instability which makes the people live in fear.
Climate change has led to unreliable rainfall in Northern Uganda. In the districts of Kitgum, Gulu, Agago and Lamwo, the total rainfall received per year is less than 5 milliliters (about 0.17 oz). This makes a lot of land vegetation dry up, including food crops that are in the garden, leading to low food productivity and starvation (famine). The unreliability of the rain also reduces the water volume in many places. This will later cause suffering to both man and animals as there will be an inadequately amount of water to sustain using it for both domestic purposes and for the pastures. Industries that use water as a source of raw material are also affected. This leads to low economic growth and development. This additionally comes with many demerits like unemployment, regional imbalance and income inequality, among others. This explains why there are few industries set up in Northern Uganda as climate change is destroying the would-be raw materials that are required in the production of certain commodities.
Climate change in Northern Uganda causes famine and malnutrition due to failure and death of livestock. In Northern Uganda, several cases of animal deaths are registered annually. Medically, it is advisable to eat beef, veal and mutton as a source of protein. However, due to deaths of livestock caused by climate change, people are discouraged from eating meat, thus leading to famine and low protein value in their bodies, affecting the health of the people living here. This results in poor living conditions and malnutritional diseases.
Climate change is lowering the levels of water in River Nile which, for so long, has been facilitating the generation of Hydro Electricity Power for both domestic and industrial purposes. This reduces power efficiency and retardation in economic growth and development. For a long time, Uganda has been exporting hydroelectricity to Kenya, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries. However, due to reduction of the water levels of Rive Nile, the quantity of power supplied is becoming low meaning that there will be less to export for income and that the economy will suffer.
Staying on the topic of the reduction of water level in Rivel Nile, Uganda is in conflict with the Nile Valley countries of Egypt and South Sudan. It is said that “the Nile Is the mother of Egypt”. So, in a way if the Nile is affected, Egypt is affected as well, the reduction in the water level is reducing the industrial activities in Sudan and Egypt as these two countries entirely depend on the Nile. This results in Egypt and Sudan not wanting to supply Uganda with their industrial products as they blame Uganda for the issues with the Rive Nile.
Climate change is causing wild forest fires due to the hot weather conditions that makes tree branches and leaves on the forest floor become drier. This leads to massive destruction of vegetation, property and even death of both animals and people living in such areas. The people living in the Northern Uganda are basically hunters who at times in pursuit for prey set bushes on fire which ends up spreading and burning down whole forests. This affects the people since these fires produce fumes that are toxic to humans. The fires are also destructive to the ozone layer and therefore contribute to global warming. This leads to issues with many economic activities which also affects the lives of people living in Northern Uganda.
Climate change also leads to loss of biodiversity which is a threat to wildlife. Biodiversity is the existence of a number of different kinds of animals and plants which together make a good and healthy environment. However, due to climate changes, the lives of wildlife have become hard. Some creatures in the jungle may not adapt easily to these changes. The new conditions of life caused by climate change have led to the deaths of these creatures. in some jungles, the temperature may change drastically where some wild games may as well not adopt to them. The death of these wild games has lowered the tourists’ interest in game parks as well, such as Kidepo Valley National Game Park where some species are extinct due to climate change. This lowers government revenue that would have been used for economic growth and development in the Northern region of Uganda. This comes with many demerits like an increase in poverty and unemployment, hence affecting the lives of people in Northern Uganda negatively.
To a very small extent, climate change is also affecting the lives of some people living in Northern Uganda positively in that some are employed to work in weather stations, bodies that deal with climate change and conditions like National Environment Management Authority, National Forestry Authority, Lutheran World Federation among others. This helps them improve their standard of living here, justifying the climate change in Northern Uganda.
In conclusion, climate change is affecting the lives of people mainly negatively, as explained above. Among the negative effects are the loss of biodiversity, wild forest fires, displacement of people and drought. However, the government of Uganda, in combating climate change, is using bodies like the National Environment Management Authority and National Forestry Authority. Among others, these bodies set rules to fight against the climate change, discourage deforestation, evict people from wetlands and plants more trees. However, the measures are still not so effective but will be promising if persisted, as the saying goes: “Slowly by slowly an egg will walk”.