UN Honours Ugandan Project Helping Farmers to Adapt To Climate Change

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New Vision, Uganda

A project that uses mobile phones and radio programmes to collect, analyse and send out weather data is helping up to 100,000 farmers in Uganda to adapt to climate change in their communities.

The climate change adaptation and ICT – CCAI project is one of the 16 game-changing initiatives from around the world that were honoured at a special ceremony in Le Bourget, Paris last week, where the two-week climate change talks ended with the much anticipated Paris Climate Change agreement.

Through this project, farmers in the targeted areas of the cattle corridor are now receiving seasonal and short-term weather forecasts, agricultural advisories, weekly livestock and crop market information and guidance on low-cost rainwater harvesting techniques and drought and flood coping mechanisms via mobile-phone technology and interactive radio.

And as a result, farmers are able to minimize crop loss and damage, making them more resilient to a changing climate.

In Uganda, the impacts of climate change are manifested primarily in droughts and floods especially in the low lying areas. The droughts make rains onset unpredictable resulting in changing planting seasons which has a direct impact on the livelihoods of farmers.

In an exclusive chat with New Vision, Berhane Gebru, the Director of Programmes at FHI 360 TechLab USA, who is also the principle investigator of this project, said the project provides farmers with the information they need to cope with climate change related hazards.

“Working with the metrological authority of Uganda, we provide them seasonal forecasts when the rains will start, when the rains will end. During the rainy season we provide them with short time forecasts like ten days, three days or one day forecast,” said Gebru.

He however says that this is not enough because it must be weather forecast must be interpreted in terms of agriculture.

“So we provide them agriculture advisories that is suitable for the specific forecast or that season,” notes Gebru.

The project was started in 2012 and has seen up to one million dollars invested in it. It operates in the district of Nakasongola, Sembabule, Rakai and Soroti. It is coordinated by the water and environment ministry supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre IDRC. The cattle corridor region is about 40 % of Uganda.

The project has resulted into 67% reduction in cop loss and damage in the target area. And in monitory value, Gabru says this project is helping farmers to save millions of shillings.

“The money saved is about US$160 per person annually and per household, it is about 800 dollars per year,” he noted.  

Agriculture, which accounts for over 40% of Uganda’s GDP, employs 80% of the labour force and supplies 85% of exports, is primarily rain-fed, making it vulnerable to drought. The effects of higher average temperatures and more frequent and severe climatic changes in Uganda are seen primarily in the reduction in food security, decline in the quantity and quality of water and degradation of ecosystems, and negative impacts on health, settlements, and infrastructure.

Each of the 16 winning projects touched on one of the Momentum for Change initiative’s four focus areas: Urban Poor, Women for Results, Financing for Climate Friendly Investment and ICT Solutions. All 16 were showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change. This year’s winning activities range from a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first to an initiative that is enabling 40 Latin American cities to take concrete climate action.

Speaking during a special ceremony at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to honour these projects, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said such projects could inspire leaders to take bold steps to counteract climate change.

“As the world moves toward a future built on low-emissions sustainable development, these bold ideas can inspire leaders to be more ambitious in their own policies and actions,” Ban said.