Hellen Mary Akiror’s livelihood relies on the right amount of rainfall coming at the right time.
A farmer in Uganda’s Soroti district, Hellen lives with her husband and seven children. Growing millet, groundnuts, sorghum, cassava and potatoes on her four acres, she is dependent on rain-fed agriculture for her survival. Yet, she said, “Rainfall comes at the wrong time, in huge quantities, and stops when we need it most.”
Hellen’s story is all too common. In 2014, I met Mukasa, an elderly Ugandan farmer grappling with the fact that his village was facing unpredictable rainfall and temperatures higher than any in living memory. At the same focus group discussion where I met Mukasa, I also met Father Philippe, the pastor of Mukasa’s parish. Father Philippe said, “We have sinned and the lack of rain and excess heat are the wrath of God.” Another parish member said, “We destroyed the trees and we are facing the consequences.”
While the villagers’ explanations vary, all agree on one point — rainfall in the country is becoming scarce and unpredictable, and extreme heat is increasing in intensity and frequency. During the 80 years between 1911 and 1990, only eight droughts occurred, while in the 10 years between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced seven droughts. As in other sub-Saharan countries, higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods in Uganda diminish food security, decrease the quantity and quality of water, and deteriorate natural resources.