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Adverse weather conditions threaten livelihoods 

Mrs Giboni goes through her garden to just look at the destruction by Heatwave that has hit the country in Bulambuli district. (PHOTO/David Mafabi)

MBALE -Timothy Giboni, 61, stands in his garden pondering his next move. He helps looks at the scorching sun above the sky but cannot stop it from shinning.

That afternoon he had expected rain to give life to his crops that are now drying in the gardens. The light showers in mid-February enticed him and his neighbours to plant but the rains did not come.

Across the neighbourhood, many of the residents stood in their gardens with pointing fingers directed towards the rainmakers whom they blame for stopping the rain from pouring.

Giboni, a farmer in Bulambuli in Bumasikye village says in the past they could look at the movement birds from the East to the South as an early warning system that the rains would pour. She says they used to plant in March and harvest in June/ July but that everything has changed, they can no longer tell the seasons, the rains have changed and now pour a little then disappear throughout the year.

“Everything has changed, we can no longer tell the seasons with the traditional early warning systems, we have now resorted to God to help us because everything seems not to be working in our favour, our crops are drying up in gardens, the dry season is long, something has gone wrong,” says Giboni.

Years ago, that the rains would start from March to June for the long season and September through October to December for the shorter spell was as sure as the sun rising from the east and setting in the west.

Many farmers at Mt Elgon sub-region remember such times with nostalgia, as they were assured of when they would grow their crops and when they would harvest.

Today, the weather pattern has become too erratic for any correct prediction by farmers even the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) and these changes are hitting crop farmers hardest, on the farm and even in their pockets.

So far, this year is perhaps turning out to be one of the worst for farmers, the long rains have delayed maybe until April with adverse heat effects across the country.

Although the first planting season that stretches from March to May should have started with rainfall early this month.

Instead, the country has been battered by a heat wave and farmers who were enticed by the mid-February rains to plant are counting losses.

Giboni is just a representative of many farmers who are faced with the climate change effects and are likely not to harvest anything this season because of the adverse effects of the heat wave.

In Bulambuli, Mbale, Manafwa, Sironko, Kumi, Bukedea, Kapchorwa, Kween, Bukwo, Pallisa, Budaka, Butebo, Kibuku, Namutumba, Iganga, Nakapiripirit, Tororo, Busia and Bududa districts, many farmers are counting losses following the heat wave that has hit the area since December.

Acres of maize crops that had started germinating have been destroyed and Mr Giboni and his wife sit outside their two-bedroomed house anxiously gazing at the sky and hoping against hope that it rains to give their crops life.

“All the maize and beans I planted on my two acres of land have been destroyed by the heat wave,” says Mrs Giboni.

Although Mr Giboni and his wife were forced to replant the Maize and beans later, as fate would have it, the bad weather has once more wrecked havoc on their farm, heaping on them more losses.

Mr James Omagoro, a farmer from Molo, in Tororo district says that he has lost maize, beans and Sorghum seeds due to the prolonged heat wave.

How the ground at Mt Elgon sub-region looks like due to the heatwave, (PHOTO/David Mafabi)

A director at National Agricultural Research Organisation(NARO) Dr William Wogoire explained that seasons have changed and urged people to diversify agricultural production and start planting drought-resistant but early maturing plants.

Dr Wogoire said farmers must change the planting seasons and use the full range of scientific forecasts for extreme-weather events in order to help mitigate the disasters being caused by climate change.

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) in a March 12 statement attributed the dry spell and searing temperatures to the tropical cyclone, known as Idai, which wreaked havoc in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“Idai led to the development of low-pressure system around the Mozambique channel which resulted in the weakening of south easterly trade winds. These winds became diverted towards the channel, depriving moisture-laden winds to reach our country which is why we have experienced the dry spells that disrupted the onset of March to May seasonal rainfall,” reads the statement signed by Mr Festus Luboyera, the UNMA Executive Director.

Mr. Chebet Maikut, the Commissioner, Climate Change Unit at the Ministry of Water and Environment, said the entire country is likely to experience poor harvests throughout the year due to low rainfall partners that don’t also come in time.

He revealed that the causes of rainfall decline Scientists correlate the decline in rainfall to the destruction of the environment.

He added that environmental degradation has resulted into climate change, also referred to as global warming, which has seen an increase in average surface temperatures adding that other factors that have led to climate change include increased levels of atmospheric carbondioxide produced by burning fossil fuels, industrial and automobile gases.

Environment State minister Dr Gorreti Kitutu has said in the past that 40 per cent of rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests and that the other 60 per cent rainfall is influenced by external features such as the Indian Ocean. Ends

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