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Climate change and food security 


Written for session 9 – The awakening of ecological awareness

Growing up in the western part of Uganda, in a community where everyone’s source of income comes from crop growing and animal rearing and with no awareness about climate change, its impacts and with no skills in disaster mitigation we were always affected and suffered more casualties due to the consequences of climate change. I grew up witnessing high levels of deforestation by different families and my own family as well, so as to obtain firewood, some for charcoal for sale to earn a living; very many other people always encroached on wetlands for cultivation and practised unsustainable agriculture and this always increased the change in the weather patterns which we actually thought were normal.

In Uganda there are two seasons, that is, the dry and rainy season and these were always predictable before unlike nowadays where the climate has continued to greatly unfold hence altering the conditions in which food is grown thus affecting the productivity of crops and livestock. As the weather patterns continued to unfold, you would find that the drought is unexpectedly prolonged, extremely harsh causing prolonged hunger days and months. The rains would also fall so heavily with hailstorms and at times we would receive so much rain in a day that should have been received in probably a month and this would greatly destroy crops in the gardens, cause loss of livestock and homes, increase pests and diseases on the crops and animals hence leaving us in hunger times, poverty and unable to adapt to certain losses like loss of a loved one and ancestral homes. These changes in the weather patterns have greatly increased since then and are heavier, impactful and more alarming.

When I started climate activism in 2021 after being inspired by Vanessa Nakate under the Rise up movement, I was able to relate with the little I learned in my high school in my Geography classes and what I always saw happen as I grew up and what is still happening, unfortunately it was too late to create a difference in the past experiences since so very much had been lost. I later joined the Rotary fraternity where our seven areas of focus are inclusive of protecting the environment and was delighted to serve under the Rotaract Earth Initiative to be able to redefine mother-nature. I now greatly rise up for the planet and the people especially those on the frontline of the climate crisis so that we could have another possible world.

With the increasing climate crisis in my country like the floods and landslides in the Eastern part and the south-western part, as well as the prolonged droughts in the northern region, this leaves the communities greatly affected since homes and houses are destroyed, people and livestock are lost, crops destroyed, increased pests and disease, limited access to water and this greatly disempowers these communities on the forefront of the climate crisis making them more marginalized, vulnerable and poorer since their only source of food and income is destroyed hence food insecurity.

Pictures showing livestock and crops affected by drought

The increasing food insecurities disproportionately affect women, girls and the children since women and girls are at the forefront of the climate crisis and greatly involved into unpaid domestic care with the help of their children. These women are also involved in crop growing and animal keeping leaving them with a work overload as they try to secure food for their families, water for domestic use and for their animals as well. The food insecurity also increases child marriages as families exchange their young daughters for a few resources like food, money, cows, so that they are able to be sustained and survive an hour, a day, and a week during the climate crisis.

Women and young girls bearing the brunt of drought as they struggle to look for water

There is an increase in gender based violence cases as the food insecurity arises as men expect to find food on the table when they return from either work or taking alcohol after the whole day and yet the women were left behind struggling and at times fail to secure a meal leading to domestic and physical harm between the men and their women, this greatly affects the kids mental health and growth; school drop outs are also on the increase hence failure for the kids to secure basic education and those that try to stay in school decline in performance due to less or no meals to sustain them during school days hence greatly affecting their ability to evolve and reach their full potential.  

Climate change has affected farming and pastoral communities nutritional status as they rely on one meal per day for their survival hence increased acute malnutrition especially in the northen part of the country-Karamoja region leading to stunted growth and death of these children as their parents are unable to secure them food and as well afford their medical bills. This is also greatly happening in the Turkana region, I managed to follow and watch Vanessa Nakate’s visit in this region where she met an overly malnourished kid whose family couldn’t afford meals and medical bills hence the kid delayed receiving treatment and by the time they went to the hospital it was really late for this kid to survive and passed on; this is so heartbreaking and such non-economic losses like the loss of a loved one are so hard to adapt to and no amount of money can pay up for it.

Food insecurity has also increased the number of refugees and this has in turn increased suicide cases amongst them especially the family heads as they are unable to provide food for their families, food prices have also increased due to food scarcity, and due to lack of income most people are unable to buy food from the market. There has also been increased land conflicts due to displacement and struggles to access cultivatable and arable land for farming, increased migration among pastoral communities leading to loss in culture and family bonds; some animals stray to other people’s land leading to conflicts among communities.  Food insecurity has increased prostitution cases as most women and girls are exchanging their bodies for survival, a case in point, is in the Karamoja region during the prolonged and devastating drought and hunger where the last Acute Food Insecurity IPC (https://reliefweb.int/report/uganda/uganda-karamoja-subregion-acute-food-insecurity-and-malnutrition-dg-echo-ipc-wfp-unicef-fewsnet-local-media-echo-daily-flash-26-july-2022)  revealed that approximately 518,000 people were in need of food assistance in Karamoja with almost 428,000 facing crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC3) and almost 90,000 in emergency level (IPC4) in the period between March and July 2022 and where hundreds of  people died of hunger in this region, this greatly left most women and girls going into the neighboring cities for prostitution so as to sustain their families and lives hence exposing these girls to physical abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies an intimate partner violence.

Hundreds of people have died and many left starving due to prolonged drought and food insecurity.

According to the Saferworld report of 17th April 2023, Mr. Tebanyang Emmanuel Arukol, a policy analyst at Karamajong Development Forum in Uganda states that climate variabilities have exposed pastoralists and agro-pastoralists to unpredictable migration especially pastoralists from Turkana-Kenya into Uganda and by Karimajong pastoralists into other regions and districts of Uganda such as Acholi, Lango and Teso and Sebei. This has created conflicts due to rivalry over access and use of natural resources including water and pasture, and due to these conflicts illegal arms and weapons often find their way into Uganda and are used for raiding and killings

Having gotten an opportunity to work with different youths and communities during our ecological grass root awareness in the Rotaract Earth Initiative and the Rise up movement, this has greatly created a mindset change in my life and enabled me realize that everything we do for the people and the planet makes a difference and matters, that climate change is real and knows no borders. As we work towards achieving the United Nations second Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger that aims at ending poverty, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems by 2030, we should not forget that all this is not possible without addressing the issue of climate change. I reckon our leaders to support climate activism movements, give these young people platform to tell their stories, raise awareness about climate change and as well amplify their voices in all spaces. Global North leaders need to stop empty promises and pay up for loss and damage to the global South communities, listen to the science and the voices of the Most Affected People and Areas. Africa as a continent emits less than 4% of the global carbon emissions yet suffers the most impacts of the climate crisis, we need to see polluters pay up for their actions!!

We cannot have zero hunger without addressing women’s issues since they are at the frontline of the crime crisis, Project Drawdown ranked educating girls as their number six solution to tackling climate change and when combined with voluntary family planning it actually becomes the number one solution; bridging the gender gap in education would help countries better adapt to the climate crisis and as well reduce impacts of climate change, investing in girls’ education gives them skills they need and prepares them for the future they are entering into hence giving them climate resilience. The education system should have climate change topics entailed in the school curriculum so as to create more awareness. The leaders should normalize providing school going children with meals at schools to enable their wellbeing and allow them more learning time.

As we continue rising up for the people and the planet, let us take ecological awareness at grass root level in the marginalized and affected communities seriously, farmers need to be taught and encouraged to practice sustainable agriculture, the leaders should offer climate finance so that communities are able to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Zero hunger is not possible without climate justice and climate justice is not possible without listening to the Most Affected People and Areas, allow the people in these areas tell their own stories and represent their communities. We also cannot have climate justice without women’s great participation in the social, economic and political participation and great focus on gender justice. I reckon women to rise up and occupy for the sake of their children, generation, the planet and the generations to come.

The climate crisis is not something that is going to rise up in the years to come, it is something that is already happening greatly and impactful; we therefore, all need to rise up and act now. It is high time we all treated climate change as a crisis and emergency because it is. We cannot afford to adapt to starvation, food insecurity and to loss and damage. Climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate always says that climate change is not about the weather, it is not about the numbers and statistics, it is about the people. Therefore, as we greatly act now towards climate justice, let us not forget that not all climate action is climate justice, let us keep mindful of the people and the consequences our actions could cause to them.

I greatly believe that another world is possible, that climate justice is achievable and that we could all work together to create and renew hope in this world.