The Impact of Climate Change on Women and Children in Mukono, Uganda
Statement - 14th June 2012 - Empower and Care Organization (EACO)
A Gender Approach
In Mukono, women have limited access to resources, mobility, decision-making, and have restricted rights, which makes them highly vulnerable to climate change.
Rural women are the primary producers of food, yet the agricultural sector is highly exposed to impacts of climate change. Women and young girls have the responsibility of collecting water and firewood; hence, they have to walk longer distances in periods of droughts. They also contribute to the unpaid labour of coping with climate change risks through soil and water conservation on top of being engaged in off-farm, income- generating activities in order to support their families.
For successful achievement of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, it is important to adopt a gender approach. This will help to analyze and understand the different roles and responsibilities of men and women, the extent and quality of their participation in the decision-making, and their needs and views.
The main causes of climate change in Mukono also are resulting from emissions from various human activities such as industrialization, agriculture, and deforestation.
Uganda’s tragedy mainly comes from the degradation of the carbon sinks in form of deforestation.
This massive clearing of trees is done in favour of farming and construction for the growing population.
But looking at the gender aspect, one asks which gender does most deforestation?
Women: The Main Food Producers
Women in Uganda – more so in Mukono and Maracha where we operate, are the main food producers and so they are mainly involved in subsistence farming in small holdings usually handed over or allocated to them by the men. It is the men who are involved in commercial farming and clear large expanses of land in the process. For example, the sugar plantations.
Women produce most of the food in developing countries. As agricultural workers and family providers, they are responsible for up to 80% of household food production.
Any slight change in factors that influence agricultural production may adversely affect the livelihoods of the families, and consequently, of the communities.
The recent unpredictable and erratic changes in weather have culminated in starvation of households in Eastern Uganda and other parts of eastern and Northern Uganda.
Last year in 2011 and also early this year 2012, there was a lot of heavy rainfall which damaged over 8,000 acres of crops, destroying property and causing death in the areas of Kyabakadde, Kasozi Bulijjo, and Kiyunga, among others.
Drought followed, and it negatively affected the communities. For instance, cows started to die, crops dried up, work was crippled – like brick-making, which made our people in the community to lose hope.
In all these circumstances, women had to feed their families so and find local adaptation measures such as looking for edible leaves from the bush.
The food crisis associated with climate change has been linked to higher rates of early marriages for girls, as they are exchanged for dowry or bride price.
Recently, in Uganda, a family gave away their 15 year-old daughter – in exchange for dowry in order to survive the poverty, so that they can have something into their pocket.
These "famine marriages", as they are called, not only lead to girls dropping out of school, but also make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted Infections (STIs) and related reproductive complications.
Erratic Weather Increases the Burden of Rural Women
In cases of famine and poverty, men often adapt by migrating to other areas to look for an alternative income, which puts agriculture in danger, and hence, low production of crops and animals.
In Mukono and many parts of Uganda, women and girl children are responsible for collecting water and firewood.
As these resources become scarce in the face of increasingly erratic rainfall, they must spend more time looking for and collecting them, further reducing the time they have available to engaging in economic activities, or attending school.
Climate Change is increasing the burden of rural women by forcing them to walk further to find water and other resources like firewood. Among pastoralists, scarcity of resources such as pasture and water disrupts the normal home life, as men also have to move further from homes to look for these resources for their livestock. The women in turn have to look for nutritious alternatives which often enough are not easily available.
Another way in which climate change impacts on the smallholder farming communities in Mukono and other parts of Uganda is the increase in incidents of diseases such as malaria and cholera due to increased heat, floods, and related poor sanitation which are common in Uganda.
Disease weakens family members, affect agricultural production – and adds extra burden to the women and girls who have to care for the sick, and on men who have to look for medication for their loved ones.
To a large extent, climate change has highly affected the communities’ way of living and lowered the food production.
The Way Forward
The government of Uganda and community-based organisations (CBOs), and non- Government organisations (NGOs) addressing the Department of Environment, should mobilize all farmers in the region to be sensitized on the effects and causes of climate change and come up with possible solutions, raising awareness, and training them on specific adaptation methods
Farmers should be encouraged to use organic products on farmland to protect crops and other plant life, and avoid destroying the ecosystem.
Also, grassroots communities should be actively involved in implementation of programs – and governments should be urged to set aside funds for sensitization of grassroots communities to take interest in climate change issues.