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Agriculture is a Gamble: Stories from Uganda

Part 2 of Sharing Stories: Mary Robinson, Climate Change and Us.  Find Chapter 2 in Robinson's book and read with us.  

So often when I think about climate change the issue is overwhelming and atmospheric it can be hard to relate to. Reading this chapter proved to be very provocative and formative for my faith journey combating climate change.   Mary Robinson does a wonderful job bringing this issue down to ground level in her book Climate Justice. She bridges this dissonance in each of the 10 chapters by sharing the stories of real people around the globe who are being affected right now by climate change.

 Reading this chapter proved to be formative for my faith journey.

Chapter Two focuses on Uganda, this country is about the size of Michigan.  Its economy is based on subsistence farming and is located in the eastern region of Africa. Mary explains that sub saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The chapter shares the, voice of Constance Okollet a small scale Ugandan farmer and self-proclaimed “climate change witness”. 

“In Eastern Uganda, there are no seasons anymore, Agriculture is a gamble.”(pg. 16) says Okollet. Climate change has brought erratic rains resulting drought that persistently withers her crops of maize, sorghum, and millet. She almost lost her home and family to abnormal flooding in September 2007 due to volatile rains.  This particular flood washed away food stocks, homes, and the topsoil of the fields. It also brought a wave of increased malaria and illness associated with scarcity of clean water. 

Climate change has brought erratic rains.  

Climate change is making harsh landscapes even more difficult to live in. The brunt of the domestic work falls on the women of the household. Robinson writes “Working not just as farmers but as the breadwinners and backbones of their communities, these women inevitably bear the greatest burden of our changing climate.”(pg. 21)  This chapter reveals how Ugandan women work relentlessly just to survive. These women were busy before climate change, but now they have no margin of error to pull everything together. 

Though these situations are extremely urgent and dire Robinson is sure to focus on the resilience of people in this book. After the flood in 2007, Robinson writes about how the women of Olloket’s village banded together to form a group to try and tackle some of the problems they are experiencing. Olloket gathered these testimonies and presented them to the local council resulting in more support for these women. The chapter follows the journey of Olloket growing in her knowledge and her voice to help her village, and raise awareness about her situation and the many people like her. 

Olloket gathered these testimonies and presented them to the local council.

This particular chapter resonated with me because I have seen this situation myself. I’ve talked with these women subsistence farmers.  Just this past May (2019) I travelled through East Africa learning about how farmers in Uganda are being impacted by climate change. I spent the days listening and touring farms seeing firsthand many of the things this chapter describes. I saw communities that were washed away, food scarcity and increased illness due to drought. As Christians we realize all people are made in the image of God, and we are all part of the body of Christ. This includes our brothers and sisters in Uganda. I was changed by the opportunity to see the impacts firsthand. However, this is not feasible for everyone to do. Therefore, this book is an important tool, Robinson shares first hand stories—this really puts a face to the problem of climate change.  The church needs to be on the frontlines of combating climate change, it is our moral obligation to care for our neighbors here and across the globe. 

For more information on the trip the author went on check out the Climate Witness Project.  

Photo Credit: Quinn Neely

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