UGANDA: AS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS RURAL HOUSEHOLD INCOME IN NORTHERN UGANDA, LOCALS CALL FOR “FREE UNIVERSITY EDUCATION”

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68 year-old Dominic Otika, a chain-smoker, shows his withering cabbage plant because rainfall has become un-predicable and did not fall in time in northern Uganda.

“Climate change is adversely affecting farming activities here, thereby leading to poverty and looming famine. We usually expect rain on March 15 every year but this year (2016), it did not come in time for the first planting season. It only rained in April with interruptions in May and June, which received no rain at all. It came back in July only, leaving August dry. With this kind of rainfall, we can’t plant at all. I only see famine and our children may not study because we can’t afford school fees”-Ms. Elizabeth Aonyo Otika

LAMWO-UGANDA: Unpredictable rainfall pattern is adversely affecting farming in Palabek Gem sub-county in Lamwo district, Northern Uganda, thereby driving the locals to abject poverty and famine; the people there are now demanding for free university education for their children.

During a visit to the area from November 3-7, 2016 I was able to establish that, rain which used to fall on March 15 every year, did not fall until April 2016 briefly, leaving May and June 2016 relatively dry without any rainfall at all. Rain fall came back briefly in July but became dry again in August and September 2016.

“Climate change is adversely affecting farming activities here thereby leading to poverty and looming famine. We usually expect rain on March 15 every year but this year (2016), it did not come in time for first planting season. It only rained in April with interruption in May and June which received no rain at all. It came back in July only, leaving August dry. With this kind of rainfall, we can’t plant at all. I only see famine and our children may not study at all because we can’t afford school fees”, says 54 year-old Ms. Elizabeth Aonyo Otika from Ayu Lupur village.

Change in forest cover between 1990 and 2005, Uganda lost an average of 86,500 hectares of forest per year due to encroachment. Uganda lost 26% of its forest cover, around 1,297,000 hectares. The total land area of Uganda is 19,710,000 hectares while forest cover is only 3,627,000 hectares, which is 18.40%.

Dominic Otika, 68 year-old, who is specializing in growing vegetables, says he planted cabbages, egg-plants and tomatoes in June, but his vegetables failed to develop into sizable yields and he expressed fears that he may lose all his investments and not be in production in the next planting season.

“I fear I may be out of production next season as my vegetables cannot be harvested and be able to compete for the market. My granddaughter, who is a student of Palabek Senior Secondary School, may drop out of school since I don’t have any other source of income”, says Otika.

Mr. Otika blames those who are depleting forest cover for charcoal business as being responsible for the climate change which is currently being experienced in northern Uganda, a claim he says, is bringing poverty to the local community. He says people in the past would respect big trees and if one cuts such big tree, one would be asked to sacrifice a sheep.

“If you cut a big tree in the past, the clan would ask one to sacrifice a sheep for cutting the tree down. That is why rain would fall at the right time (season) which enables farmers also plan to plant crops like millet in time. These days they are destroying forests and the region is soon becoming semi-arid. Government should enforce laws banning indiscriminate destruction of forests”, says Otika.

He appealed to the government of Uganda to introduce “free University education” since farmers can no longer afford to pay for University education. He complained that even for those students who manage to go to university, they cannot get employment because old people have refused to retire from jobs to give chance to young ones to also get jobs.

Mr. Kalisto Ocan (48) says government should distribute fast maturing seeds for planting at the right planting season instead of the current Operation Wealth Creation’s (OWC) method whereby seeds are distributed late to farmers.

Mr. Charles Okello (54), another farmer, says government should re-introduce marketing cooperatives societies to enable members market and negotiate prices for their produce instead of the current system where middlemen with capital (cash money) determine prices of farm produce. Ms. Elizabeth Aonyo Otika, meanwhile, appeals to government to educate and sensitize farmers on modern farming method.

 

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