Investing in food security to improve livelihoods and promote risk-proof development in Uganda

Promoting risk-proof development in Uganda
Members of Kechomieno group receiving start up grains for cereal banking in Karita Sub-county, Amudat district,Karamoja sub-region (Photo: UNDP 2015).

KARAMOJA - Paulina Adomo Rengkit used to travel several miles each day in search of clean water for her family. Today, she collects water from a sub-surface dam nearer her home in Relnoi, Amudat district.


The dam was constructed by the community through a cash-for-work initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A sub-surface dams stores water underground and is well-suited for semi to arid areas as their rate of water evaporation is minimal compared to surface-level water sources.


 “The water coming from the dam is considerably cleaner than the water people used to get from the holes they excavated in the sandy riverbed. I need less time now to fetch clean water, because I don’t need to excavate the sand in the riverbed,” says Paulina, who is also the Secretary of the Water User Committee of the Relnoi sub-surface dam in Amudat District.


Up to 1,682 households in Nakapipirit and Amudat, were paid to help rehabilitate water sources through the project on Enhancing Food Security, Livelihoods and Resilience Building in Karamoja Region  with funding worth USD $ 900,000 from the  Government of Japan. UNDP’s support builds on a previous intervention by Government of Uganda, funded by the European Commission.


For decades, communities in the two drought prone districts have suffered chronic insecurity caused by a long culture of cattle raiding, as well as inconsistent rainfall patterns that do not permit farming. An estimated 72 percent of the population is living below the poverty line while 91 percent depend on boreholes for water.


By close of December 2015, a total of 23 water sources had been successfully rehabilitated, among them 4 rock catchments, 6 Water ponds, 11 boreholes, and 2 sub-surface dams.  In addition, 15 Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) groups were supported with grants to scale up their micro interventions, to enable households increase their incomes, and promote a savings culture, hence empowering the communities. To help maintain the water sources, water user committees were trained by the project to oversee the use of the facilities sustainably.


“Most of the activities were in the District Development Plans, but there were no funds to carry out the implementation. The involvement of the sub county officials and the District Water Office in the sites’ selection, monitoring and training of the Water User Committees has helped, and enabled us to identify the priority areas and the gaps for future planning,” explains Paulina.


Lochelengiro Yohana, head of Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction in Amudat, says the training has further equipped them to develop a Community Action Plan (CAP) enabling them to obtain additional funding from their local government to construct two more boreholes in the district.


He adds: “The training capacitated our lobbying skills. We presented the Community Action Plan to Amudat Sub County Local Government and to the Parish Development committees and then it was integrated in the Sub County Development Plans”.


In a region rich with cattle farming, a total of 432,824 animals were vaccinated with the help of 75 Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) to increase trade in animals, and to minimize infection and transfer of disease from animals to humans. In addition, 200 Tsetse fly traps were installed in the two districts.


Using the same cash-for-work approach, communities were further supported to build latrines to improve health and sanitation in the two target districts. According to the Uganda Water and Evironment Sector Performance Report (2014/2015), many communities in Karamoja, moreso in Nakapiripiriti and Amudat, practice open defecation due to a lack of toilets.


“I had long hoped to own a latrine one day, but I did not have the knowledge, funds or materials to construct my own. I used locally sourced materials to construct my latrine. I hope to use the knowledge I have gained to help the rest of my community to construct and use latrines,” said Lokiru, a beneficiary from Nakapiripirit District.


Risk-proofing development to safeguard Uganda's gains


Over the last decade, Uganda has experienced over 2,500 disasters. The impact this has had on the economy has been considerable, with a reduction in GDP of 3.5 percent on average from 2010 to 2014, according to the World Bank. While over half the country is vulnerable to drought, and a third to floods, communities along the fragile dryland cattle corridor, mountainous regions and informal urban settlements are most at risk. Without addressing the growing levels of disaster and climate risk, the Government estimates that 43% of the population could regress into poverty.


In 2014, UNDP partnered with the Office of the Prime Minister to establish the National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre, which brings together key decision-makers from across government and partners to improve early warning dissemination, preparedness and response.


While disasters can have national impact, they are felt most severely at the local level. Local governments and community leaders are being supported with the knowledge and tools to take action on early warning, and to develop risk-informed district development strategies and plans for communities at risk.


Under this partnership, a mapping and profiling of hazards, risks and vulnerabilities for 111 districts has been carried out, providing a critical foundation for a national risk atlas. Disaster management committees in all the districts have been further trained and equipped on the national early warning systems.


Underpinning Uganda’s preparedness efforts have been efforts to increase its capacity to monitor and forecast extreme weather, hydrology and climate change. UNDP is supporting the Uganda National Meteorological Authority with essential equipment, upgrading forecasting facilities and building the capacity of meteorologists and hydrologists to provide useable information to communities.


Recognising the role of the military in a disaster, 400 Uganda People’s Defence Force officers have been trained on civil-military coordination and how to respond to various disaster scenarios.


Although a national policy on disaster preparedness in place, UNDP is  working with the Government on developing legislation, to further strengthen institutions and legal mechanisms to govern the reduction and management of disaster risk and increase accountability. By investing in disaster preparedness today, Uganda is mitigating impact, saving resources and protecting its development gains.


“Uganda demonstrates a strong national commitment to building resilience to disasters, and is now in a much better position to make evidence-based development and investment decisions,” notes Ms Almaz Gebru, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme.

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