How infrastructure investment can tackle climate challenges

Ocorimongin market, a pivotal hub for livestock and foodstuff, faced recurrent issues during the rainy season due to overflow of runoff water has been fixed. PHOTO/TREVOR LUTALO

What you need to know:

  • The forecast issued by UNMA for the March, April and May rainfall season highlighted above-normal rains in different parts of the country.

The repercussions of disasters, both social and economic, underscore the collective vulnerability and underscore the urgency of launching a worldwide initiative to address and adjust to climate change. To significantly decrease risk and enhance the capacity to bounce back, investing in disaster-resilient infrastructure stands out as a paramount choice.

Infrastructure does not exist in isolation; it forms part of a broader system or network of assets that interconnect people and deliver vital, life-sustaining services such as electricity and water. However, repairing infrastructure is a costly endeavor, made even more expensive amidst the escalating challenges of extreme and unpredictable weather patterns and the rapidly expanding global population.

The inconsistent nature of seasons- wet and dry points to the catastrophic results of climate change. With unusual rains recorded in the last part of 2023 mixed with high temperatures in select parts of Uganda is a wake-up call that action must be taken to offset this trend. The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) predicted El Niño rains that would have resulted in floods in flood hotspots across eight districts in the country.

Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) with the support of $1 million from the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium,  rolled out a project “Strengthening flood early warning, preparedness, and anticipatory action in hot-spot areas in Uganda” to improve disaster preparedness, improve critical infrastructure and enhance early warning systems, saving over 13,000 vulnerable households from floods that may have resulted in loss of livelihoods, food and plantations in the Rwenzori, Elgon and Teso regions.

Mr Dominique Reumkens, a programme specialist at FAO says they developed a global El Niño Anticipatory Action and Response Plan, aimed to protect the food security and livelihoods of communities at high risk of El Niño impacts.
“This plan has been followed in Uganda, working with the Office of the Prime Minister to reduce the impact of the expected floods through the implementation of immediate anticipatory actions. These actions aimed to prepare the communities at risk to cope with potential flooding and to enable fast recovery,” he explains.

Katakwi District
In Katakwi District, efforts to bolster resilience against climate-induced challenges have seen significant strides. 
Ocorimongin market, a pivotal hub for livestock and foodstuff, faced recurrent issues during the rainy season due to overflow of runoff water, posing hygiene hazards. In response, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in collaboration with the Ugandan Red Cross Society, initiated a comprehensive intervention.

Through a Cash-for-Work modality, the local community was engaged in manual works to enhance road drainage channels, alongside mechanised construction works including grading, gravelling, and compaction of the market grounds.
According to Mr Mark Ebulu, the Branch Manager of the Red Cross in Katakwi 651 individuals engaged in the cash-for-work modality and at least 680 locals received post-harvest handling materials.

“Using a system developed by FAO, we were able to register and monitor work during the project, they received shs 12,000 per day totalling shs 144,000 for the work done. We also distributed gumboots and work tools to worker groups, we have asked them to form groups to help them to utilise these wheelbarrows and shared tools effectively,” says Mr Ebulu.
One of the beneficiaries of the cash-for-work arrangement, Mr Emmanuel Okwi said he used the money to send his children to school and the remainder to buy medicines for his livestock.

Katakwi district CAO, Mr Paul Walakira 

Also, the rehabilitation of Cheele dam, situated in Abele parish, Getom sub-county about five kilometres from the district headquarters and crucial for livestock keeping, aimed to mitigate downstream flooding while ensuring water access, particularly during dry spells. 
The works at Cheele involved desilting of the farm, rehabilitation of the access road to the dam and construction of a spillway to direct water into a secondary dam to prevent flooding.

Another beneficiary, Mr Godfrey Sunlight Ilekit, a cattle keeper and resident of Abele says the dam has always been a thorn to their existence during the rainy seasons.
“Whenever it rained, we could not bring our animals here. It is good that we were able to take part in this work ourselves, we hope it will only get better,” he said before adding “It is the first time I have received over 140,000 for my work. I have been able to assist my people including taking my sick mother to the hospital. With the balance, I was able to buy other necessities,”

Mr Reumkens says the implemented actions have contributed to the resilience of food production and livelihood systems for food and nutrition security in Katakwi district.
“Anticipatory action is one of FAO’s key approaches as part of an effective disaster risk
management approach. Coupled with timely and actionable early warning information, anticipatory actions aim to anticipate and respond early to mitigate the impact of a shock, instead of responding to a shock after it has already happened,” he says.

The Katakwi district Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Paul Walakira lauded FAOs and collaborators for the timely intervention acknowledging the other risks faced by the district.
“Money as it is, it is not good enough but what you use it for is the best, we hope they have used the money for the right purposes, and anything if misused is dangerous. We received supplies that we believe will go a long way in making our people’s lives better. Our region is disaster-prone, with so many hazards, drought, floods so we need continuous help,” he states.
What is being done to prepare for disaster?

Last month, amidst the looming threat of El Niño rains, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) rolled out the “Water at the Heart of Climate Action” project. The project is aimed at strengthening the country’s early warning mechanisms to mitigate the ugly effects of climate Change.
URCS secretary general, Mr Robert Kwesiga says water is central to climate action particularly in the Nile basin area thus the need to develop a proper framework to prepare the country in times of abundance and scarcity of water.

“In extreme cases, when there is water, there are floods and livelihoods are destroyed. There is no water, there is famine, and people will die of hunger. It is important to make sure that the information gathered by the National Meteorological Department is made palatable for the end users in the community. They [community members] deserve to know and appreciate this information and use it accordingly,” he explains.
With the enhancement in science, the weatherman can now be able to accurately predict the weather patterns and disasters which informs planning for humanitarian agencies and government.

The forecast issued by UNMA for the March, April and May rainfall season highlighted above-normal rains in different parts of the country.
Dr Godwin Ayesiga who is in charge of training and research at UNMA says it is important for all stakeholders to join forces to improve resilience and response to weather-related disasters.
“We have made all weather forecast information available for all players so that they can break it down for the end users. We have also trained our stakeholders on how to interpret this information,” he says.