Written by Sarah Aijuka, Andrew Mugyema, Ben Twinomugisha
This article is based on World Wide Views on energy event’s round table deliberations, desk studies, Focus Groups Discussion, analysis and interviews with a number of key people. The people interviewed for this article emphasized a need for sustainable financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation as the primary key measure in Uganda.
Climate Change Adverse Impact
Growing body of evidence suggests that Uganda is now among the countries most exposed to the damaging effects of climate change despite contributing the least to historic greenhouse gas emissions. Interviewees confirmed that Uganda stands to be hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Climate change and variability coupled with increasing environmental degradation have recently become of great concern to many sectors in Uganda including energy and agriculture.
“Many parts of the country especially north and east already suffer a fall in agricultural productivity, while people are increasingly exposed to water stress/drought, flooding, and a possible major expansion of vector-borne diseases such as highland malaria. Effects such as decreases in rainfall levels, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and shifting of seasons would have a significant impact on the agricultural sector, livestock and fisheries, water resources, forestry tourism, and infrastructure. The significant impact will be felt more in agriculture and energy sectors’’. Prof. Georoson Byamugisha.
Despite the economic importance of agriculture in Uganda for example agriculture related activities account for more than 86 percent of the country’s employment, contribute 30 percent to total GDP, and generate a significant share of foreign exchange. These climate change-induced events have far-reaching effects on food security, livelihoods and long-term development. When it comes to energy consumption, wood fuels are largely used for cooking. High demand for wood fuels used inefficiently results in overuse and depletion of forests. Three stone open wood fires are used by (94%) and traditional charcoal cook stoves by (6%). Most meals are prepared using heat-wasting aluminum saucepans sometimes without lids. People prepare more than one dish at a time, twice a day in more than 60% of cases.
In 2014, 14.1% of Uganda’s land area was covered with forest. The land available is becoming scarce and households prefer to use the land for food crops rather than planting trees. Since 1990 the forested area decreased from 49,240 km² down to 29,880 km². This means that from 1990 until 2010 more than 19,360 km² — equaling 39 % of the existing forest– disappeared. Each year about 90,000 hectares (or 900 km²) of forest cover are lost. Urban and rural households are facing increasing energy costs and spend more time collecting firewood. Biomass is the predominant type of energy used in Uganda, accounting for 94% of the total energy consumption in the country.
The national indicator on population below poverty line is 24.5%. About 27 per cent of all rural people – some 8 million men, women and children – still live below the national rural poverty line. Poorest people include smallholder farmers who often fall short of minimum household needs, rendering them to degrade forests for survival.
The Urgent Need for Finance
Adaptation in agriculture and saving forests is an urgent priority for Uganda, but accessing the various global funds established to provide finance for climate mitigation and adaptation is complicated. Uganda belongs to the category of world’s least developed countries (LDCs) which have been recognized as needing financial and technological support to adapt and mitigate climate change under Article 4.9 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Despite urgent and immediate adaptation and mitigation needs in Uganda, the country experiences funding gaps. Even worse, securing funding for medium and long-term needs is an additional challenge.
‘’Uganda must prepare the necessary funds needed to adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is not a choice but a survival nightmare for the majority of our people who lack resources to live with the adverse impacts’’. Dr. Sam Musirika, Economist Makerere University
It was learnt that the global effort to mitigate, and adapt to the current and anticipated effects of climate change has been intense in recent years, yet the available resources are insufficient to meet the needs of countries such as Uganda. The international community is said to have mobilized a superfluity of funds and resources aimed at adapting to and mitigating climate change. ‘’there is an effort to avail a global climate fund delivered mainly from the governments of developed countries directed through bilateral aid or multilateral funds. The founding of the Green Climate Fund (GFC) is expected to become the main multilateral financing instrument for climate action in developing countries like Uganda, providing a total of US$100billion per year. Despite the GFC effort, Uganda has not yet effectively benefited and the funding available exhibit a large resource gap’’. Mr. Lawrence Aribo (Adaptation Officer –Uganda Climate Change Department)
Without a sustainable financing mechanism, the poor farmers who are the majority of the population cannot afford the price of new technologies and varieties; they find them to be so expensive. Limited access to credit facilities is another major barrier to adaptation and mitigation in Ugandan typical households. Microfinance interest rates are so high and the conditions not sustainable for agriculture production and energy saving. WWViews participants from eastern Uganda districts reported that the microfinance institutions’ interest rate was at 15% monthly which is not suitable for farming or finding alternative energy to save forests. As a result, those who can’t afford the high rates are forced to depend on natural resources such as felling trees for survival.
WWViewers claimed to have changed from using indigenous seed to ‘improved seeds’ supplied by seed companies. However, it was mentioned that the seeds are expensive amidst lack of money to purchase. This is frustrating to the majority small-scale farmers, especially women, who invest time and invaluable savings to agricultural production. It also adversely affects agricultural production in the regions.
What needs to be done?
There is an urgent need to increase investment in agriculture to support small domestic agriculture in terms of seed supply, small-scale irrigation, and food reserves at the community, district and national levels. The Government of Uganda committed itself under the Maputo declaration to increase the budget share to agriculture to over and above 10%. Up to now this has remained unfulfilled. The budget share to agriculture is still less than 5%. Funding is needed for small-scale irrigation schemes that are affordable for poorer farmers. For example, investment in treadle pumps can lead to almost a doubling in production. Funding is also needed to help develop early maturing and drought tolerant crop varieties through farmer led research. Improvement of rural infrastructure relevant to poorer people will facilitate the development of income generating activities by providing access to water and electricity.
The Government of Uganda should plan for climate change related contingencies and develop contingency plans if certain climate outcomes come to pass. Government should anticipate what farmers will do, how markets will react, and what roles government needs to play. A national adaptation (NAPA) process should enhance research and capacity building needs to be undertaken. Efforts should be made to enhance resilience to related risks through education, training, sharing of information on best practices, introduction of relevant technologies and management practices, and through strengthening of local institutional capacity. An awareness strategy on the national climate policy and implications of climate change should be developed and funds need to be allocated. Education and awareness creation on climate change among governments, institutions and individuals should be viewed as a necessary step in promoting adaptation to climate change.
The government of Uganda also has a responsibility to invest in national plans, which focus on supporting the most vulnerable communities to adapt and mitigate climate change. Innovative approaches will be needed to finance national governments adaptation and mitigation needs including fairer principles such as the ”polluters pay principle” and stronger incentives that promote private investments in clean energy and sustainable natural resource management. There is need for ambitious national pledges for COP21 that can act as a solid base upon which to build stronger action, such as those enabled by a transfer of resources (technology or finance).
Developed countries must commit themselves to providing the funds needed, independent of existing aid package to help vulnerable communities in Uganda to adapt to climate change. (The estimated cost of climate proofing current investment plans in LDCs will be $10 and $40b -which is peanuts compared to developed countries’ national budgets. Moreover, developed countries have got advanced adaptation and mitigation technologies and science that they should unconditionally make available to poor countries. It is important to be concerned about the energy sector in order to help fasten potential prospects, guide investment decisions, and provide an incentive to develop new technologies, drive needed technology market reforms and stimulate the implementation of strong domestic policies that are necessary to meet the 2 °C goal, such as carbon trading.
 Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Strategic Investment Plan 2014/15 – 2018/19, page 101