By Gerald Tenywa, Prossy Nandudu & Lawrence Mulondo
Uganda’s production is declining in agriculture, water and energy due to devastating impacts of climate change, according to a global report on climate change compiled by the UN-Inter Governmental Panel.
Climate Change is caused by emissions such as carbon dioxide from production processes, which trap heat escaping to the atmosphere thereby causing global warming.
The warming of the earth disrupts rainfall patterns and also melts the ice on mountain tops like the Rwenzori.
In a presentation, Revocatus Twinomuhangi of Makerere University pointed out that three of quarters of Uganda can grow coffee but this is going to be restricted to a few highland areas due to climate change effects.
Such a scenario will play out if temperatures increase by 2 degrees Centigrade in the coming years.
Similar impacts will affect maize, a popular crop in eastern Uganda and tea grown in highlands, according to Twinomuhangi, pointing out that this has been proved by case studies undertaken on the way how climate lhange is affecting maize, tea and coffee.
“It means big trouble for food security and the economy,” said Twinomuhangi, adding that climate change impacts were being felt through rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
He was speaking on Thursday during the release of the fifth IPCC (UN-Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change) report in Uganda, among other countries, at Hotel Africana.
IPCC was formed to undertake assessments that have proved that human activities are responsible for climate change.
Dr. Shuaib Lwasa of Makerere University is one of the lead authors of the IPCC and Magezi Akiki is the IPCC focal point in Uganda.
Impacts of climate change on coffee
Coffee, accounting for 23.8% of the total export earnings in 2008, has been cited as the most vulnerable crop, according to Stephen Muwaya, the coordinator of Sustainable Land Management in the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The coffee yields are getting lower and some people are abandoning growing of coffee,” he said, adding that coffee is very sensitive to temperature changes.
“Uganda’s coffee will completely be wiped out within the coming 100 years,” he said.
In the mountainous areas of the Rwenzori, farmers in the low lying areas say coffee is unprofitable as its suitable growth range shifts up to the higher parts of the mountain, according to Muwaya.
Implications of Climate Change on economy
In another presentation, Annunciata Hakuza, a senior economist in the Ministry of Agriculture pointed out that the contribution of agriculture to the total GDP decreased from 45.7% in 1995-1996 to 41% in 1999-2000.
The decline in agricultural production in 1999-2000 is partly explained by the 1999-2000 droughts.
“Agricultural performance fluctuates with climate variability and climate change, and is also affected by rudimentary means of agriculture, poor markets and storage facilities.
She also pointed out that while the period between 1991 and 2000 had seven droughts, the period between 1981 and 1990 had only two meaning they were becoming frequent.
Chebet Maikut, the deputy coordinator of the Climate Change Unit said the resilience of the population to the changing climate conditions is low. This, he said is due to the high dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
Impacts on energy
Apart from agriculture, energy supplies that rely on water to generate Hydro-Electric Power are also under threat, according to Twinomuhangi. He said the water levels of Lake Victoria dropped in 2006-07 partly due to successive droughts in Kenya leading to generation of less than half of Uganda’s potential of hydroelectric power.
This has prompted the formulation of a Climate Change Policy that requires all Government ministries and departments to include climate change programmes in their budgets so as to address some of the effects that are already being felt in the country.
“We already have the policy on climate change; what remains is the implementation and we hope it will be included in the second National Development Plan that is being formulated by Government,” said the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment, David Obong.
Obong warned that failure to do so means that crop yield will be affected, leading to less production for food for families thus fueling famine and hunger.
“The challenge is to ensure that the policy gets to the right people through the different departments; this is the only way we can address some of the effects of climate change and even prevent other that may come about in future,” added Obong.
He also said the Climate Change Policy will help to coordinate action on climate change, increase awareness and funding of priority interventions.
The policy, among other things, is seeking to create a department in the environment ministry as the custodian of climate change issues in Uganda, but with supportive structures in other arms of the