By Phionah Sanyu
Uganda’s economy is largely agricultural. This means that agriculture being the core sector has, for a long time, significantly contributed to the country’s GDP and employment.
The Uganda Statistical Abstract (2013) sites the agricultural sector as the major source of employment, engaging about 66% of the country’s population which derives its livelihood from it. On the one hand the National Development Plan (NDP) (2010/11-2014/15) recognises agriculture sector as having the potential to significantly increase it contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction agenda.
On the other hand, despite the many reforms that have been implemented in the agriculture sector, growth in the sector there remains slow, largely because the sector receives less than 4% of the national budget.
Furthermore, while Uganda’s population predominantly survives on agriculture, there have been changes in the climatic patterns that have affected food production.
The 2nd Chronic Poverty Report notes that the poor people have been vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change because of their fragile resilience and limited ability to adapt, their dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to adapt, which is heightened by weak national systems that make many people who are currently vulnerable or are in transitory poverty are at risk of staying in chronic poverty.
Uganda, like the other East African Countries, has ratified the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and Kyoto Protocol that guided the development of the East African Community (EAC) Climate Change Master Plan.
The EAC countries have also used Climate Risk Management (CRM) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approaches to reduce the degree of vulnerability and increase capacity of communities.
The DRR approaches offer options for prevention, mitigation and preparedness to adverse impacts of natural hazards in some of its interventions. For instance, strengthening regional meteorological and hydrological services and improving climate early warning systems to promote efficient management and utilisation of natural resources, including protection of vulnerable ecosystems. Despite this, most of the countries don’t have long term responses to disasters.
In Uganda, the National Disaster Preparedness and Management Policy has not effectively been responsive to managing disaster hence increased vulnerability of the affected population.
It is, therefore, worth noting that while agriculture remains critical to Uganda’s economy, the climatic changes’ effect on temperatures and precipitationhave remained a threat to the economy.
The threats include; change in seasons which have not only affected agriculture production, but also the weather patterns. These in turn have been manifested in form of floods and droughts, affecting the poor, who tend to be the ones that live on land that is prone to flooding.
They have been forced to live in temporary shelters during storms and landslides as is the case of people living around Mt Elgon in Eastern Uganda, who have been victims to mudslides, specifically in Bududa. The communities prone to these threats have continually become poorer as most of them have been displaced and resettled in internally displaced camps.
This has not only affected their productivity but has meant that drought and floods have greatly contributed to food insecurity which has resulted into severe malnutrition among the population especially the children less than five years.
The Government of Uganda and the East African Community are called upon to urgently ensure that their early warning systems and disaster preparedness and management policies are effectively responsive to predict and manage disasters and increased vulnerability of their affected people.
The writer is a social analyst
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