Constance Okollet is a self-described peasant farmer from the Tororo district of Eastern Uganda. The fine soil and reliable weather patterns in the region used to yield enough crops to feed Constance and provide her with an income. But now the increasingly erratic rainfall coupled with more flooding and drought is ruining her crops and devastating her community.
Constance relies on reliable changes in the seasons to plant the right kinds of crops. But the climate is changing and this is becoming difficult. ‘There are no seasons any more in eastern Uganda,’ she explains.‘Before, we had two harvests every year, but now there’s no pattern.’
She has observed more extreme weather that damages crops and destroys lives. In 2006 there was a particularly severe flood. ‘Floods like we’ve never seen came and swept up everything, Constance says.‘It rained and rained until all the land was soaked and our houses were submerged in the water.’
The villagers all moved to higher ground to escape the rushing water. ‘By the time we came back home, all the houses had collapsed, our granaries were destroyed and food was washed away. The remaining crops were rotten, and our food was no more.’
Constance’s own home was one of the few left standing after the flood and there she sheltered 29 people until new houses could be constructed. It was in these challenging and overcrowded conditions that the villagers faced the spread of disease and starvation.
‘There were a lot of mosquitoes around, and five of my family members became ill with malaria,’ explains Constance.‘Because there was no clean water to drink, some people got cholera and diarrhoea. Many of the people in my village died.’
The government provided Constance and the stricken villagers with food supplies, but the reprieve was bittersweet. She explains,‘this was so humiliating for us, because we had never depended on aid to survive.’
‘When we managed to get seeds to plant for our own food, we were struck by a drought like we had never seen before,’ says Constance.‘It was so hot, all of the crops dried up and the wells where we used to collect water also became dry.’
‘There was no water in the boreholes, and so the cycle of hunger and thirst returned, but this time caused by the excessive heat.’ She says that women and children were forced to walk long distances in search of water.
Rising temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns and more extreme weather events are taking a serious toll on Constance’s community. As climate change continues unabated this community, and others like it across Eastern Uganda, are more vulnerable to poverty-inducing cycles of devastation.
‘We are getting poorer and poorer because of climate change, and we are dying,’ Constance says.
Source: Climate Wise Women