Flooding of River Manafwa has destroyed many crops in Manafwa District, leaving farmers devastated.
Mr Bosco Natsambwa, a farmer in Manafwa District, left his home on Friday morning to go to his garden only to find his crops washed away after River Manafwa burst its banks.
“This has been my hope because the crops I had earlier planted in the first season were also washed away,” Mr Natsambwa, a resident of Bunawuwenge Village in Wesswa Sub-county, said last week.
Mr Moses Wanda, another farmer, said the yields from his gardens have been declining over the years.
“We used to harvest enough but today, it is a different story. Although we plant much, we harvest little,” he said.
Mr Sulayi Wakalanga, the district environment officer, attributed the low yields to extreme weather conditions which have made it difficult for farmers to harvest better yields.
“When it rains, the farmers experience extreme floods and when it does not, there are extended periods of drought. This is not favourable for crop production,” Mr Wakalanga said.
He added that there is fear of famine due to climate change effects.
“This is because of low crop yields each passing year unless all catchment areas are preserved,” he said.
Mr Samuel Mafabi, the speaker of Sironko District, appealed to government to address the economic, social and environmental effects of climate change.
“Unstable weather conditions have affected agricultural production and increased levels of food insecurity, this needs to be addressed,” Mr Mafabi said.
He said intermittent water sources such as rivers Manafwa, Sironko and Komorototo in Butebo District experience water decline to their worst levels during dry spells.
“The water levels in these rivers reduce drastically and this is partly due to increasing human activities, including farming and settlement on river banks,” Mr Mafabi said.
Mr Ibrahim Okurut, a resident of Akoboi Village in Butebo Sub-county, said River Komorototo used to harbour different fish species but they no longer exist.
“We used to get cat and lung fish from this river five years ago because then, it was still a river but now it has become a stream,” Mr Okurut said.
Komorototo is a trans-border wetland that covers Butebo, Pallisa Kibuku, Bukedea, and Kumi, among other districts.
Mr Johnson Aluburu, the Komorototo parish chief, said if Komorototo is not protected and conserved, it will disappear within five years.
Mr Deo Kabaalu, senior wetlands officer for eastern region at the Ministry of Water and Environment, blamed the worsening climate change effects on environmental degradation.
“But as government, we are on track to restore rivers and wetlands to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Mr Kabaalu said.
He said they have already started planting pillars to demarcate Komorototo wetland. Other wetlands to be restored include Mazuba-Mpologoma and Ivukula-Namakoke wetland in Namutumba District, Tirinyi –Mpologoma and Kitantalo-Mpologoma wetland (Kibuku) , and Lumbuye wetland in Budomero (Kaliro).
The restoration project is funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and United Nations Development Programme. In Tororo District, River Malaba always bursts its banks whenever it rains, thus washing away crops and submerges houses.
The district National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) officer, Ms Mary Evelyn Aol, said they have started planting trees on the river banks.
Ms Aol also said they have started sensitising a communities and opening boundaries for all wetlands.
However, Mr Micheal Nantulya , the Butebo District vice chairperson, advised government to create alternative sources of livelihood for the affected farmers.
“The locals are willing to vacate the wetlands but the government should provide alternative sources of livelihood because they have been depending on the swamps,” he said.
Mr Joseph Malinga, a communication specialist in the Ministry of Water and Environment, said the affected locals will be given alternative sources of livelihood such as poultry, and fish farming, among others.
He said they have already trained about 96 trainers under the GCF project to help the wetland users to adapt to other sources of livelihood.
“The locals will also be trained on various income-generating activities to embark on within their communities,” Mr Malinga said.
Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent while forest coverage has dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent due to human activities, according to the Ministry of Water and Environment.
Original Source: Daily Monitor