Climate Change Research Findings in Nakasongola worry Makerere Scientists

  • Population aware of changing patterns in  temperatures and rainfall but 33.6% are doing nothing to cope 
  • Crop and Livestock production dwindles, masses resort to charcoal burning destroying over 80% of the woodlands in two decades .
  • Residents call for more research and information dissemination,  extension services,  easy access to credit, improved crop varieties and livestock breeds, farm implements  and improved infrastructure.

Majority of Nakasongola residents are aware of climate change and its impacts but 33.6% of the population are doing nothing to cope, a new study conducted by Makerere University has revealed. Scientists are worried that unless government and other stakeholders intervene the social, economic and political fabrics in this district are bound to break down stifling all the development plans.

This was revealed during the research dissemination workshop where Makerere scientists were sharing research findings with sub county and district leaders, environmental and NAADS officers, district planning, production   and climate change units  at the Nakasongola district headquarters on December 17, 2013.

The study titled, “ Perceptions  of Climate Change /variability and its  effects  among small holder farmers in the dry land  ecological  zone of Nakasongola,” was conducted in 21 villages to assess the level  of awareness of climate change  and what farmers attributed  to weather changes and  how they were coping. Nakasongpola was chosen because it is more vulnerable to climate change and being a dry land, has a challenge of  less  rainfall  with high instances of drought.

This project is part of the major grant in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences funded by the Rockefeller Foundation where sub grants were given to different scientists to contribute to the main project.  The objective was to understand peoples’ perception on climate change to give a basis to come up with interventions to help the communities.

The Lead Researcher from Makerere University’s Department of Forestry, Bio diversity and Tourism Dr. Edward Mwavu reported that despite the fact that residents were aware of the changes in temperatures and rainfall manifested by frequent droughts and shorter rainfall seasons, a substantial percentage was doing nothing to cope with these changes.

“What is unfortunate is that when you look at the respondents, we had 33.6% who were doing nothing to cope with the impacts of climate change and this worries us a lot. If a person is doing nothing, he will have insufficient food, poor health, income and education hence a serious impact and burden to the district and national development plans,” Dr. Mwavu stated.

The Don said, the other finding was that a section of people  practicing adaptation strategies to deal with the impacts of climate change were finding challenges  ranging from lack of information, easy access to  credit,  extension services,  and  would  want  improved crop varieties and livestock breeds, farm implements   and transport network issues improved.

Dr. Mwavu expressed the need for policy makers and planners to come up with strategies to increase awareness on climate change and improve peoples’ capacity to cope to avoid sinking further into poverty which may hinder government achievement of the Poverty Eradication Plan.

“Climate change is with us, so we have to find options to adapt .The district officers have to find ways of taking information to the communities using different channels and ensure that extension workers go through NAADS to preach the message of climate change adaptation”, the Lead Researcher said.

The District Environmental Officer Nakasongola district Kunobere James Bond agreed that  Climate change variability in Nakasongola was vivid describing the Makerere  report as  a true reflection of what was on the ground.

Mr. Kunobera identified the   major challenges in the district as lack of pasture for livestock due to the long dry spells, crop failure and emergency of termite infestation leading to loss of crops. Other challenges he said, were loss of diversified incomes from both crop, livestock and fisheries as these resources continue to dwindle.

“Due to failure of crop and livestock production there has been increasing poverty trends in the communities leading to increased theft and other crimes within the district. The other issue is loss of wood land because  people are left jobless having failed in crop and livestock, they are resorting to charcoal burning at a high rate and we are loosing almost all the  woodlands and about 80% has been lost in the last two decades”. The Environmental Officer said.

He said more emphasis is to be put on sensitizing the masses and using indigenous knowledge from the other 70% who said they were doing something so that the 33% could fall suit. Other plans were to intensify efforts to mobilize resources and attract more funding for research geared towards climate change.

Mr. Kunobera called upon stakeholders for more research, documentation  and dissemination of knowledge on climate change in Nakasogola , “I want to thank Makerere University for having given us the feedback because most  partners and institutions do research  which end up on their shelves as part of their accountability but we  actually need such information and if brought back here  it can be pushed to policy level and benefit the population”,  he said.

As a district he said a lot of interventions had been undertaken including  advocacy by publicizing the district challenges, integration of climate change issues in district planning process at multi- sectoral level and coming up with policies.

 “We are coming up with a policy on institutional structural designs whereby water harvesting is a must. For example if you are putting up a staff house, medical or for teachers and classroom blocks you must have that component of water harvesting because this is a water stricken area .Others he said include sensitization on local radio stations in all languages and advocating for all NGOs and CBOs within the district to incorporate at least a component of climate change   within their work plans and tree planting to promote regeneration of woodlands.

Co - researcher and climate change expert from Makerere University’s Department of Forestry, Biodiversity and Tourism Dr. Micheal Mbogga explained that the current weather projections from the Meteorological Department were in line with what farmers in Nakasongola observed. One of the important things according this expert was the increasing drought and rain coming March or late.

“The two important trends are that the rains in September – October are becoming more intense than they used to be. So farmers should take advantage of the increasing rains in October. The other one is that of increasing temperatures in that farmers need to understand that temperatures are increasing and have ways and means of dealing with that at the household level”. He advised.

  Dr. Mbogga observed that addressing the impacts of climate change should be a responsibility of   everybody   dealing  with people and their livelihoods  and not only those in climate change area.

“The impact is going to come all way from health, to affecting farmers yield, so anybody is affected for instance, we need to find ways of increasing use of fertilizers so that farmers can get better yields or even if it is going to be with disease and pest outbreaks, then we could look at immunization as one of the way  farmers can deal with these changes”. The climate change expert noted.

He clarified that weather predictions from the Meteorological department should not be taken as exact as this is based on tools they have to tell how the future is likely to be and usually this information is given as a probability.

“So we need to help the communities to know the meaning of weather projections and advice the farmers because information on climate which is changing and we cannot say we know what is likely going to be tomorrow. The information that is given is just a guideline that can be used   for handling and managing the risk”. Dr. Mbogga said.

Dr. Mbogga revealed that efforts were underway to transform the Meteorological department into an Authority to increase efficiency in records and processing and to improve the reliability of the data provided. He re-emphasized that there was no   place to find weather projections being 100% correct.

   He informed participants that The Makerere University Climate Change centre for Research and Innovations (MUCCRI) had been established to help improve the climate science and knowledge to help in mitigation and adaptation as well as policy on climate change issues.

“Because the core mandate of the university is research and training, the centre will continue to do research to help farmers with climate change adaptation. The centre will also be running short courses which can be taken by government officials , NGOs  to improve their awareness and help them manage information they have to be able to mainstream climate change in their programs as well as help communities cope with climate change”, He pledged.

Dr. Mbogga also clarified that there was no a nationally agreed adaptation strategy that can work in all parts of the country but  the government had developed the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) in 2007 highlighting priorities of government in terms of adaptation to climate change. This document highlights a few projects that would be implemented to help communities and the country adapt. He said, one of the projects underway was “The water for production project” being implemented by FAO in collaboration with the Global Climate change Alliance, working in the cattle corridor to help farmers have water for livestock production.