28/01/2016


When I was about eight years old, I had some cousins over to our home to play after school. We all loved to play football, but unfortunately the nearest football field was about 3.5kms away, we would normally play handmade football on our compound. Unfortunately, my mother had spread vegetables to dry on the compound and one of my cousins kicked the ball into vegetables, my cousin carefully navigated his way to collect the ball, but in the process my mother appeared from the house. She was very furious. I was scolded and she blamed me. I was not allowed to play with my friends again for about two whole weeks.

It’s so difficult to take the punishment when you’re not the one to blame. I took the hit, because my mother couldn’t really punish my friend, but it still left me helpless.

If you have grown up with brothers and sisters, like me, you’ll definitely have taken the punishment for something you didn’t do wrong. Something will get broken whilst playing a game, or someone will fall off the swings and get hurt, and your parents will lay the blame on you. And if you’re the eldest, this outcome is almost guaranteed.

Taking the hit or something that had nothing to do with you is not fair.

As the impact of El Nino continues to cause alterations in the livelihood of farmers and families in Uganda we are left asking ourselves if we deserve to be punished for the actions of others.

Across seven districts in Uganda, around 2 million Ugandans have been affected by heavy rains triggered by El Nino. Farm land and homes have been destroyed, whole livelihoods put in doubt, and around 40,000 Ugandan’s have reportedly been made homeless according to Rogers Mugere, an official at the Disaster Preparedness Department.

Climate change is a definite threat to our way of life here in Uganda. It seems the MDGs saw economic growth achieved at the expense of the environment.

When it comes to the cause of the problem, African nations are the unfortunate victims. When you measure carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels, Uganda produces only 0.1 metric tonnes per capita making it one of the lowest emitters in the world. Compare this to the likes of the UK (who produce 7.1 metric tonnes per capita), the USA (17 metric tonnes and a population of 318 million people) and China (6.7 metric tonnes for each of the 1,357 billion people).

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990.

Sustainable Development Goal 13 focuses on the need for international cooperation to help countries move toward a low-carbon economy. The goal aims to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries and help mitigate climate-related disasters.

Target 13.3 within this goal focuses specifically on the need to ‘improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning’. This, indeed, is the key to making sustainable change.

Across our network of 28 schools in Uganda, PEAS teaches students key information about environment-related hazards and natural disasters. As the majority of our students are from agricultural backgrounds it is vital that the next generation understand how the world is changing and how they will need to adapt to prosper in Uganda.

Meteorological experts in Uganda expect the rainfall to continue through until February, usually the dry season, and heavy rains have already led to a cholera outbreak that has killed six people in western Uganda. Residents in rural mountainous areas, often the areas many of our schools are located, are being asked to vacate their homes in case of mudslides.

Luckily, none of our schools have been affected yet and Uganda has increased disaster management teams both in Kampala and around the country. Yet with rainfall expected to increase in the coming months, even preventative measures could leave some of the nation’s poorest residents with nowhere to go.   

Uganda has the world's youngest population with over 78 percent of its people below the age of 30.

Schools are the best entry point for an opportunity to ensure that generations to come have good understanding of the risks that climate change presents to the survival of this world and particularly to increase the voice of the most vulnerable to be able to manage the impacts of the climate change.

Whilst the world has not only recognised the unfairness that climate change presents to the developing nations, but goes ahead to make commitments to reverse the trends; it’s hard to believe these will translate to real change for a local farmer who could be a parent to one of our 14,400 students in the PEAS network schools. We believe that through education chances are higher for future generations to be climate smarter and build on their resilience, but also continue to push for smarter implementation of the climate promises. As was noted by Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu –Uganda’s Minister of Water and Environment in 2013 that "The most important variable that determines whether Uganda is able to address the challenge of climate change and achieve sustainable development is human capacity.”


Francis Shanty Odokorach is the Country Director for PEAS Uganda. Francis joined PEAS in September 2015 after a number of years working for Oxfam. Highly experienced in international devleopment, advocacy and education, Francis leads the in-country team in Uganda operating 28 secondary schools and educating around 14,000 students.