Like other countries in Sub Saharan Africa, Uganda is already severely affected by climate change and vulnerable to future variability. With the majority of Uganda’s population and economy largely depended on natural resources mainly rain fed agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism among others, climate change will adversely affect Uganda’s socio-economic transformation efforts.
The situation is exacerbated further by lack of capacity to respond.
In recognition of the weak institutional capacity, to handle climate change adaptation, the Rockefeller foundation called for proposals that would strengthen capacity in Eastern African region to deal with climate change. Consequently in September 2009, the then Faculty of Agriculture submitted a proposal entitled, “Strengthening East African Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation Capacity through Training, Research and Policy Interventions”, to Rockefeller Foundation that approved it for funding.
This initiative was to develop capacity to address critical issues of climate change adaptation research, policy development and implementation in East Africa. Specifically the project was to enable Makerere University to form an advisory climate change panel to focus on climate change adaptation activities related to agriculture and ensure interdisciplinary research and participation across the university; review curricular to include climate sciences and climate change adaptation issues; undertake critical research on climate change within the framework of a competitive grant scheme to generate knowledge and technologies on adaptation; create a regional community of practice on climate change adaptation in agriculture to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration on capacity development, research and policy engagement; engage collaboratively on policy issues related to climate change adaptation.
Inaugurating the a centre for Climate Change dubbed, “Makerere University Climate Change research and Innovations (MUCCRI)”, on behalf of Makerere University Vice Chancellor at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences(CAES) on July 302013,Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa who is Ag. Principal CAES and Lead Investigator Climate Change project said, the MUCCRI was an output of the Rockefeller funded initiative that arose out of the need to fill the missing links in climate change and development.
“Today’s launching starts the journey to fulfilling the above objectives… With funding from Rockefeller Foundation we have taken the first steps of establishing the MUCCRI office in the college equipped with furniture, computers, photocopying machines and a database developed in partnership with FANRPAN. I therefore wish to call upon development partners, the University and the government to support this centre.” Prof. Kyamanywa appealed and expressed gratitude for USAID that has already pledged to support the centre.
The centre will promote awareness on climate change, conduct research on climate change science, climate change mitigation and adaptation in all sectors and disseminate the generated information. It will also generate and disseminate innovations for climate for climate change mitigation and adaptation in agricultural sciences and natural resources sectors. Through research and dissemination of findings, the centre will also advocate and influence climate change and development policy to enable Uganda address climate change challenges.
In his key note address, Assist. Commissioner climate change unit Ministry of Water and Environment Paul Isabirye commended the college for this milestone in the mission of the University and particularly for being sensitive and responsive to the needs and challenges of society.
Commissioner Isabirye told participants that climate change was already disrupting the Earth’s ecological systems with potential serious negative consequences for agricultural production, forests, water supply, health systems and overall human development yet the majority of the vulnerable populations are poorly equipped to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change.
He said as temperatures throughout East Africa rise, precipitation is expected to increase, along with frequency and intensity of extreme events such as droughts floods, heat waves and associated impacts. He warned that the rate of impact is likely to be more rapid than previously expected with changes in rainfall and temperatures that will alter the ecological range off plants and animals forcing some species to migrate, disrupting delicate ecosystems and increasing the rate of extinctions.
“Already changes in migration patterns and animal behavior have been noted, while some plants are sprouting, flowering and losing their leaves at different times forcing farmers and gardeners to change their cropping calendar. Historical droughts are forcing farmers to plant different crops and some farmlands are becoming unfavorable and unusable for particular crops”, He observed.
The commissioner also said as climate change causes plants and animals to shift, diseases will also move exposing human populations, crops, livestock and wild life to new diseases which can affect all sectors of the economy but more seriously the socio economic wellbeing of the citizens.
He reported that by virtue of ratification of the UNFCCC, Uganda has joined the climate change battle with the current policy direction emphasizing the provision of adequate support for policies and programs that take into account interactions between population dynamics, climate change and development; provision of support for information sharing and research to increase awareness on climate change impacts and support to education awareness raising and capacity development process from local to national level among others.
“The Ministry of Water and Environment through the climate change unit has spearheaded the development of a national climate change policy whose overarching objective is to ensure that all stakeholders address climate change impacts and their causes through appropriate measures while promoting sustainable development and green economy”, He said.
The Commissioner further said that Uganda’s five year National Development plan 2010-2015 already recognizes that addressing climate change is crucial to enhance sustainable economic and social development while Vision 2040 recognizes that even with all efforts that government has done to respond top climate change through policies, strategies, programs and projects, there is a lot be done.
He said, Vision 2040 emphasizes climate change knowledge and information sharing with relevant stake holders as a starting point which is consistent with article 6 of the UNFCCC which focuses on education, training and public awareness.
He reported that government in collaboration with the National Curriculum development centre is integrating climate change in education curricular with content material for primary and secondary levels in advanced stages. He also said a countrywide awareness and sensitization campaign was launched while the National adaptation program of action to popularize sustainable positive practice is being piloted.
“We therefore wholly embrace this initiative being launched today because it is an opportunity and strength for government to realize its strategic objectives with regard to climate change response. I also commend Makerere University for this re-orientation to provide solutions to evolving challenges like climate change”, Commissioner Paul Isabirye pledged on behalf of government and the Ministry of Water and Environment in particular to closely collaborate with all these initiatives for the betterment of our country.
The chairperson Curriculum Review committee Prof. Elly Sabiiti described the launching of the establishment of the climate change centre as a historical moment for the college and her staff. He said climate change is real and requires capacity building to tackle them head on. Prof. Sabiiti said the curriculum committee comprising 11 members was given terms of references and successfully accomplished the task.
The Professor informed participants that the committee embarked on the work in May 2011 with a stakeholders workshop to understand what climate change was and to agree on whether it was important to mainstream the concepts of climate change in the curricular of the college programs.
He reported that the process was participatory involving meetings, choosing small teams in each department and holding retreats to harmonize issues. He enumerated all the seven terms of references that were completed.
These include the development of one crosscutting course for all undergraduate students, retooling of over 100 staff, development of specific courses for 3and 4 year students, short courses for policy makers and a new MSc, in climate sciences developed and due to start latest second semester 2013-2014 academic year.
Chairperson Steering Committee for the climate change centre Dr. Micheal Mbogga said the committee was put in place in March 2012 and tasked to develop a document to fast track the establishment of the centre at Makerere.
Dr. Mbogga stated that given the cross cutting nature of climate change, the centre will focus on four themes namely climate change science, climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation, policy, training and outreach.
He also said the centre will have an advisory committee composed of public and private sector representatives, government, academia and civil society representatives among others as the highest decision making body governing the centre plus a scientific committee to handle technical aspects chaired by the Principal CAES.