FEATURE: Bold new approach to climate adaptation in rural Uganda
The CDKN-supported project Action for Climate Change Resilience in Africa (ACCRA) brightens prospects for remote communities in Uganda, as World Vision’s Margaret Barihaihi reports.
Bundibugyo is a mountainous district in the western region of Uganda. The steep mountainous terrain is prone to immense soil erosion, which ends up in destructive landslides, making some places inaccessible. The district has suffered disastrous landslides every 30‐ 40 years and periodic flooding, but the trend of the recent years indicates an increased frequency in these events, associated with climate change. Poor agricultural practices such as massive tree-clearing, bush burning, and an absence of soil conservation structures such as terraces, only make the disasters worse.
In 2010, CDKN supported ACCRA to do community-level research and an analysis of capacity gaps. In Bundibugyo district, the study found that existing development plans do not reflect the communities’ challenges regarding climate variability, disasters and change. This is important because the district development plan is a key instrument in determining the extent of resource allocation: both for local revenue and national resources.
Disconnect between national and district planning
Why had district planning failed to capture climate-related challenges? Among other factors, they did not connect with and benefit from key national frameworks, including proposed interventions in the Disaster Management Policy and the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA). District personnel were neither aware of, nor participated in, the development of the national policies. ACCRA also found that planning was being done in isolation of line ministries with no technical support. Even at district level each of the 11 sectors were planning independent of each other.
More so, climate change-related issues were expected to be handled by one district sector, the natural resources team, which was also the least funded. The funds from central government are conditional grants that map to five national priorities and it is difficult to channel such funds to address emerging crises. Consequently, the district is left with limited choices but to focus its energy on national funded priorities, putting aside its localised problems.
Building capacity for disaster risk management and linking the national to the local
As part of its capacity building activities, ACCRA facilitated a field visit to communities in Bundibugyo District for six key representatives of national ministries. The visit was aimed at increasing national level government officials’ understanding of climate change adaptation issues on the ground, thereby strengthening the linkages between national and local level government. “The visit to Bundibugyo allowed us to see the impact of climate change and understand what is needed”, commented Annunciata Hakuza, Ministry of Agriculture. “The research results will help inform our future policy”.
ACCRA also funded training of the district planning teams on integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR) into their sector plans, which were later integrated into the five year District Development Plan. The planning exercise was facilitated by representatives from ministries of Water and Environment – Meteorology Department and Local Government, the National Agricultural Research Organisation and the Office of Prime Minister. For the first time, all eleven sectors and specific department heads in the district gathered to discuss and plan together. The result was a comprehensive five-year District Development Plan (2011-2015) integrating climate change adaptation and DRR measures.
Jockas Matte, the District Senior Environment Officer commented: “Before, my colleagues thought that climate change was just an environmental issue. Now all of us planned together, as a result, we now have a plan that to addresses climate change and we share responsibility”. The district staff found that it was possible to plan and implement adaptation and DRR activities within existing budget frameworks.
Top marks for Bundibugyo District’s disaster and adaptation planning
As a result, Bundibugyo scored highly on the annual assessment of its Development Plan by the Ministry of Local Government in 2011. It was awarded a score of 9 out of 10 on the performance indicator on “Integration of environmental issues” (compared to 6 out of 10 in the previous audit). This resulted in the district receiving a financial bonus of 20% on its budgetary allocation from the central government for that year.
The Chief Administrative Officer noted that, “with support from ACCRA and the links it helped create with Ministry of Water and Environment, we have been able to attract additional NAPA funding of 123 million Uganda Shillings”. It is anticipated that implementation of the NAPA will touch the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. Some of the planned activities include soil and water conservation i.e. terraces, tree planting, formulation of by-laws, fuel saving stoves, and learning visits, as well as awareness raising.
The national Meteorology Department has shown interest in addressing the lack of a weather station in the district. The last weather data was recorded in 1959! Working together with the World Meteorology Organisation, the department has planned to install three weather stations for Ruwenzori region in which Bundibugyo is located.
Bundibugyo District has become a learning lab for Ministries, and neighbouring districts whose officials have closely followed the process. “ACCRA has had a profound impact on our District” reported David Okuraja. “Our district has generally been viewed as isolated, affected by war and stigmatised by disease outbreaks such as cholera and ebola. Few national level decision makers ever came here. But ACCRA helped put Bundibugyo on the map. Now we talk directly to Ministers!”
Photo courtesy of Margaret Barihaihi of World Vision and CDKN