By Innocent Anguyo
RESIDENTS of the landslide-prone Bududa district, the flood plains of Kasese, and drought-susceptible cattle corridor often get no advance warning before disaster strikes. These areas have been hit by disasters, not once but countless times.
Unlike the warning systems and elaborate maps that help residents and officials prepare for natural disasters such as floods, landslides and famines in the developed world, there is no national system to monitor such occurances in Uganda.
However all this could change soon, as Makerere University is developing a computer application in form of a detailed nationwide environmental disaster map under a project named Resilient Africa Network (RAN). The map will be updated in defined intervals to reflect changes in environment.
RAN is a partnership of 20 universities in 16 countries focused on strengthening the capacities of vulnerable communities to withstand natural and manmade stresses, to broaden and deepen the understanding of resilience, and encouraging development stakeholders to incorporate resilience programming into humanitarian and development efforts.
RAN is led by Makerere University, in partnership with Stanford and Tulane universities in the United States. The initiative is funded by the U.S Agency for International Development.
According to Dr Dorothy Okello of RAN, the map they’re developing will be interactive in such a way that it will offer information on disaster prone areas regarding health, total population, infrastructure, wealth, government, agriculture and psychosocial conditions.
Kasese was recently affected by severe flooding. File Photo
Okello quickly noted that the map would therefore help in knowing the precise location of landmarks, streets, buildings, emergency service resources, and disaster relief sites and how to access them, all in a bid to reduce rescue time for disasters and saves lives.
As much as she could not reveal the specific date when the map will be up and running, Okello said they had gathered information from across the country using quantitative studies to feed into the map.
Such information would definitely be critical to disaster relief teams and public safety personnel in order to protect life and reduce property loss. Similar maps have played a vital role in relief efforts for global disasters such as the recent Haiti earthquakes.
Nathan Tumuhamye, a research officer at RAN said the institution was to award grants to eight organizations to design and implement intervention for mitigation and adaptation to the negative impacts of climate change.
This call focuses on the sourcing, developing, and scaling of transformative technologies and approaches that will strengthen resilience to shocks and stresses that arise from climate variability and climate change.
In particular, RAN is looking to support the development of solutions that will impact agricultural production and markets, as well as livelihood diversification and financial inclusion.
Tumuhamye said grants ranging from $15,000 to $45,000 will be awarded in phase one of this project.
Winners of phase one will then qualify to compete for phase two grants (which will range from $50,000 to $100,000), who may subsequently compete for phase three (awards will range from $100,000 to $ 200,000).
The grants will support development of innovative approaches and technologies that will strengthen resilience to adverse climate effects arising from climate variability and climate change within the Eastern Africa region. Applications opened on August 4 and close on September 22.
The duo spoke to New Vision at a hacking contest among 25 young technology innovators held at RAN offices in Kololo, Kampala that saw them build maps.
The contest marked the end of a 10-week summer fellowship for the hackers organized by RAN and AidData, a US organisation. AidData conducted the training since it has access to information required to develop maps.
Alena Stern of AidData said the institution provides access to development finance activity records from most official aid donors.
Makerere developing system to track environmental disasters