Since 1980 temperatures have increased by up to 1.5°C across much of Uganda and over the next 50 years average temperatures are expected to rise by a further 2°C. Changes in rainfall patterns and amounts are also expected but these are less certain than changes in temperature. Generally, rainfall is expected to become more unpredictable, unreliable and intense. Climate change will also cause an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in Uganda, such as droughts and floods.

Indeed, Uganda is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and associated economic losses. For instance, drought conditions in 2010/11 caused economic losses of US$470m in food crops, cash crops and livestock. Although the cost of adaptation is high, estimated at around US$406m over the next five years (2015 – 2020), the cost of inaction is 20 times greater, estimated at between US$3.1bn and 5.9bn per year by 2025.

Climate change is a long-term and probably irreversible problem. Therefore, the earlier adaptation measures are made the more resilient individuals, communities, organizations and countries will be to the increasingly detrimental impacts of climate change.

In a study carried out in 2016 by the Ministry of Water and Environment with support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), It’s said that there’s a new weather pattern that threatens to worsen food insecurity in the Karamoja region if no action is taken. The rising temperatures threaten to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in the region, therefore reducing availability of water for crops and animals. This too undermines food security.

Karamoja’s population is highly dependent on subsistence agriculture, which is sensitive to climate conditions, making agriculture one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change. As a result, the region suffers chronic food insecurity due to the combined impacts of high levels of poverty, low human development and unfavorable climatic and weather conditions.

However, little is known about the impacts of climate change on household food security, and in particular, the ability of households to adapt to climate change over time. This has resulted in gaps in food security and resilience programming.

The main cause of recent climate change is the release of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere as a result of human activities such as fossil fuel combustion and land use change. Pre-industrial (circa. 1750) atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations measured 277 parts per million and have risen significantly since, exceeding 400 parts per million in 2015 – unprecedented since records began.

Greenhouse gasses released by human activities trap outgoing infrared radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere, enhancing the natural greenhouse effect and resulting in anthropologically induced global warming. This increase in temperature leads to other observable effects on the climate system, such as more frequent, intense and protracted extreme weather events, with increasingly detrimental impacts upon societies’

Climate change has the potential to increase food insecurity. Existing threats to food security and livelihoods will be exacerbated by climate change due to a combination of factors that include; the increasing frequency and intensity of climate hazards, diminishing agricultural yields and reduced production, rising sanitation and health risks, increasing water scarcity, and intensifying conflicts over scarce resources.

These impacts of climate change on food insecurity will lead to new humanitarian crises as well as increasing displacement.

Regions already vulnerable to food insecurity and societies that depend on natural resources or practice climate sensitive activities – such as rain fed agriculture – will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and at an increased risk of food insecurity as a result.

Owing to an increase in extreme weather events and variability of weather patterns, climate change is expected to negatively affect food security outcomes, potentially affecting all four dimensions of food security.

Availability: Climate change will reduce agricultural production, through environmental degradation, changing agro-ecological conditions and shifting growing seasons. Changes in rainfall and higher temperatures will also affect crop productivity, reducing food availability.

Access: Food prices will increase as a result of reduced production, reducing access to food. For the most vulnerable, reduced agricultural production will also mean lower income. Under these conditions, the poorest – who already use most of their incomes on food – will have to sacrifice additional income to meet their nutritional requirements.

Utilization: Climate change is expected to increase the incidence of diseases, therefore affecting utilization of food, particularly among children. Moreover, reducing agricultural production means that the most vulnerable households will have less food available, increasing the risk of malnutrition.

Stability: Extreme weather events disrupt the stability of food production and access as well as people’s livelihoods.

The objective of this space is therefore to contribute to, and facilitate, efforts in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into broader resilience programming initiatives and to identify appropriate adaptation policies and Programmes that support the most vulnerable and food insecure communities in the Karamoja region and other vulnerable areas in Uganda. You can listen to this space on The Impact of Climate Change on Food Security below:

Wizarts Spaces are hosted on Thursday every week by Wizarts Foundation: a non-profit media NGO with the Vision and Mission to transform media and impact communities by opening windows of knowledge.

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