The climate-related catastrophes ranging from floods, prolonged drought, violent wind and extreme temperatures that have ravaged different parts of the country have caused fears of looming famine.
The recent flood disaster occurred in Buyende District in Busoga sub-region on April 23. It left 15 people dead, several injured and at least 100 families displaced. Property worth millions of shillings was also destroyed
The most affected were Kabugudo, Nabyeyo and Itanwa villages in Kidera Sub-county. The residents are now homeless and destitute.
The sub-county chairperson, Mr William Kiiza, said both property and killed residents were swept into the nearby swamps by the floods.
“The bodies recovered were picked from the swamps, where countless domestic animals were also found dead,” Mr Kiiza said.
The Budiope West Member of Parliament, Mr Robert Musoke said rain had not been seen in the area in the last four months. He, however, blamed the disaster on lack of trees in the area.
On the same fateful day, the floods also ravaged several villages in Malaba Town Council, Tororo District, leaving one dead.
Several families, mostly in Amoni Village, were also left homeless after their houses, including household items, were washed away into the river.
Mr Michael Ekakol, 65, a resident and an opinion leader, says he had never experienced such kind of flooding in his lifetime.
“It was roaring like a lion when it flooded. I think there is something wrong that will happen on this planet,” he says.
The farmers say the rains used to start from March to June for the long season and September through October to December for the shorter spell but this year, it was not the case.
“The rains started in late April but still it has not been raining like in previous years. There is still a lot of heat and the crops are not blossoming as we expect,” Mr Ayub Magomu, a resident of Makadui Village in Mbale District, says.
He adds the climate change has also tremendously affected their planting and harvesting season.
Last week, in Bulambuli District, at least 100 houses were destroyed following a heavy downpour accompanied by strong winds.
In Namisindwa District, the residents are living in fear over recurring earth movements. The rare movements have so far displaced about 200 families after their houses developed life-threatening cracks.
The most affected areas are Buwandyambi and Buyaka in Namisidwa Town Council.
There is also a 4km wide-open crack running through a road linking Namisindwa District headquarters to Magale Town Council, which has affected transport.
The Namisindwa District chairperson, Mr George William Wopuwa, says the crack, possibly caused by climate change, has left residents in panic.
In Bududa District, residents say apart from living in fear of landslides, there are also facing increasing cases of malaria.
Environmental experts say malaria is becoming rampant because the people have cut down trees in Bugisu Sub-region and the place has become warmer. In Busia, Mr Lilian Taaka, the district forestry officer, says the worst forms of environmental degradation is by charcoal burners due to the booming market across the border to Kenya.
Mr Taaka adds that most water sources in the communities are shrinking due to the drought and the rate of crop failure has increased.
“We are seeing declining rainfall levels due to degradation, which is leading to increased crop failure and food shortage,” he says.
In Sebei sub-region,
Sebei sub-region, known for growing maize, Irish potatoes and barley, has also been hit by the scorching sun, affecting production.
The long dry spell has also caused a drop in water volumes in rivers Siti, Amanang, Suam, and Bukwo.
Mr William Simikiti, a resident of Naiti Village, Kapkoloswo Parish in Kaptererwo Sub-county, Bukwo District, says they had never experienced such kind of drought.
“Usually by this time, we are planning to weed but it’s now different. It is very worrying because we do not how we are going to cater for our families as our granaries are getting empty,” he says.
Mr Stephen Sikor Mella, the district senior environment officer, says the situation is indeed worrying.
“The drought has puts us in an awkward position because our farmers depend on these crops for food and education,” he says.
Tree cutting in northern Uganda has remained a lucrative trade, which has exacerbated the climate change effects in the area. The trees are either cut for charcoal or timber.
But in the bid to fight the vice, the districts in the region have passed resolutions and by-laws but implementation has remained a challenge. In Omoro District, the council passed a resolution prohibiting massive tree cutting in 2017.
“We resolved that for any truck impounded carrying charcoal, the owner will pay Shs2 million and each bag of charcoal at Shs100,000 before the vehicle is set free,” says Mr Omoro Okello Ocao, the district chairperson.
“The process is already ongoing to sensitise the locals on the forest Act before the law enforcers take action,’’ he said.
Mr Arthur Owor, the director of research and operation at Centre for African Studies, says the fight against environmental degradation in the north is not yielding fruit because they found out that some sub-county chairpersons are promoting tree cutting.
“During our engagement and advocacy against environmental destruction, we noticed that different leaders at sub-county level were benefiting a lot from charcoal burning,” Mr Owor says.
Early this month, tragedy befell a family in Mpeefu Sub-county, Kagadi District, when a hailstorm hit their house and claimed a life of a three-year-old boy, leaving three other family members badly injured.
Mr Robert Nkwasibwe, the sub-county chairperson, says the strong winds characterised by hailstorm also ravaged several houses, crops and killed domestic animals in Waihembe, Kijuru and Kandola villages in the same area.
Mr Geoffrey Ndyabahika, the Waihembe Village chairperson, says it is the third time such a disaster has hit the area since the beginning of the year.
In Bundibugyo District, heavy rains that have been pounding the area for about a month have crippled service delivery and displaced hundreds of people.
Three weeks ago, floods displaced about 200 residents in Humya and Manmpuguro villages in Bubukwanga Sub-county.
The affected include Bundikahondo Seventh Adventist Church and five primary schools, including Mitunda, Bundimbuga, Bundikahondo and Galiraya.
The district chief administration officer, Mr Franco Olaboro, says the destruction caused by heavy rains has hindered the smooth flow of services.
Two bridges were washed away in Kisubba Sub-county, cutting the area off the rest of the district. Rivers Humya and Tokwe in Bubukwanga and Tokwe sub-counties respectively, bust their banks, destroying many gardens.
In Ndugutu Sub-county, five schools were blown off by a storm, including the sub-county headquarters.
According to the sub-county chairperson, Mr Bitamazire Mbogho, about 400 residents have been severely affected by the floods in the area.
The Red Cross manager Bundibugyo branch, Mr Tom Ndyanabo, says about 150 houses were blown off and crops such as cassava, banana plantations, and maize, beans, cocoa and vanilla plantations were all destroyed.
The district chairperson, Mr Ronald Mutegeki, says government plans to build a proper drainage system that will deter future flooding.
What government officials say
Mr Martin Owori, the commissioner for Disaster Preparedness and Management in the Office of the Prime Minister, says the origin of the of climate catastrophes is mismanagement of the environment. “We have cut down trees, encroached on forests and wetlands. We no longer have windbreakers because all trees have been cut down,” he says, adding that there is a need for alternative sources of energy in order to save the environment.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Alfred Okidi Okot, says the government is constructing small scale irrigation schemes as adaptation measures to the impact of climate change.
Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu, the State minister for Environment, says farmers should embrace better farming methods and planting of trees to save the environment.
Forest encroachment takes toll on environment in central
In Buvuma District, more than 2,500 hectares of forest cover have been destroyed in the past decade.
Ms Gladys Nalunkuuma, the district environmental officer, blames massive encroachment of forests on some islanders who misused money received as compensation for their land, which government took over for growing palm oil.
“They have chosen to settle in forests instead of buying land elsewhere and wetlands have not been spared too,” she says.
In Mityana, the destruction of wetlands and banks of Lake Wamala, which serve as key water sources, has pushed the price of water, especially in the urban centres, to between Shs700 and Shs1,000 per 20-litre jerry can.
Mr Yassin Bbira, the district natural resources officer, says Lake Wamala water levels have reduced by almost half compared to 50 years ago.
“The lake is mostly fed by rain water and whenever it takes long without raining, the water levels have to go down; even River Nakatongoli that supplies water to the Mityana District has not been spared,” he says.
Mr Kasumba Nsubuga, a tomato farmer in Mizigo Zone, Central Division in Mityana Municipality, says farming has become very difficult as they have to apply irrigation, which is expensive .
“To get good yields, one has to irrigate tomatoes at least twice a week and very few farmers can afford that,” he says.
Mr Kasumba adds that natural forests have also been parcelled out to private investors to plan pine and eucalyptus trees.
Mr Bbira says the district has seven government natural forests, including Kassa, Kajjonde, Musaamya, Bulonda, Walugondo, Mukambwe but most of them have greatly been depleted.
“Most people, who are encroaching our forests come from as far as Rwanda and Burundi. Despite being referred to as illegal immigrants, many have continued to enter the district and settle in our forests,” he says.
In Kalangala, leaders say they have so far lost close to 1,000 hectares of forest cover to illegal loggers and palm oil growers .
Worse still, residents have also encroached on wetlands, which they have converted into rice fields.
According to Mr Samuel Kintu, an elder in Buggala Island, the continuing destruction of forests has greatly affected the rain patterns in the island district to the extent that the area currently suffers dry spells, which was not the case in the past.
“We used to get rainfall throughout the year but weather patterns started to change two decades ago when we started cutting down trees,” he says.
In the neigbouring Kalungu District where excessive sand mining has taken a toll on the environment, local leaders in Lukaya Town Council are pushing for degazettement of all forests in the town, claiming they are a source of insecurity in the area. According to Mr Gerald Ssenyondo, the Lukaya Town Council chairperson, criminals hide in thick parts of the forests during day and move out at night to attack their targets.
In Masaka District, although household incomes have risen due to pineapple growing, there has been vast destruction of natural forests and wetlands to create space for the cultivation of the crop.Ms Rose Nakyegwe, the district environment officer, says efforts are being made to drive out all wetland encroachers.
However, environmental experts blame the catastrophes to human activities such as deforestation, degradation of wetlands and poor farming methods.
The experts say if interventions are not embraced by everyone, including planting trees, the country should prepare for worse disasters ahead. “Those climate hazards are happening now and will continue to get worse if we continue to ignore the interventions designed to address such hazards in our communities,” says Mr Fred Gando, an environmentalist, who also doubles as the executive director of Support Transformation Effort Programme (STEP-UG).
Mr Gando says the atmosphere is overloaded with carbondioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases that society must work hard to draw down.
“If this is not done, we will witness heavy rainfall and flooding, strong winds, temperature extremes, drought, among other potential consequences of climate change,” he says.
Mr Gando, however, blames government for not doing enough to sensitise the people about conserving the environment.
“The economy is tightly bound to a stable climate pattern. Therefore, climate change and climate variability is likely to negatively affect food security and health conditions of people,” he says
Compiled by Fred Wambede, Abubaker Kirunda, Felix Basiime, Alex Tumuhimbise, Longino Muhindo, Robert Muhereza, Barbra Nalweyiso, Samuel Nkuba, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Muzafaru Nsubuga, and Micheal Woniala