Socio-economic effects of climate change among communities surrounding Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda : a gender perspective
Nagasha, Judith Irene
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Climate change has been increasingly recognized as a global crisis threatening the livelihoods of rural communities in Africa. This study investigated the socio-economic effects of climate change among communities surrounding Lake Mburo National Park (LMNP), with specific reference to Kiruhura and Isingiro districts, Uganda. Anchored within the theory of change and intra-household decision making theoretical lens, the study employed participatory methods and a questionnaire for data collection. Using a gender perspective, the study assessed the community attitudes, perceptions and knowledge, socio-economic effects, coping strategies and responses from various institutions towards effects of climate change. The community perceptions on major causes of climate change were: cutting of trees 39%, (p<0.001), drainage of swamps 21.9%, (p<0.01), use of solar panels 16.7% and a curse from God 14.3%. More men 46.9% than women 31.2% (p<0.001) said that cutting of trees was the cause of climate change. A significantly more women p=0.003, 19.4% said a curse from God was the cause. The other causes mentioned above exhibited no gender differences. The major observed ecological effect of climate change was drought 39%, (p<0.001), followed by shifts of crop growing seasons 21.9% (p=0.01), increase in crop diseases and pests 13.5% and soil erosion 11.3%. Significantly more men (p=0.0001) 18.4% than women 4.4% said soil erosion was the ecological effect of climate change. Men and women’s gender roles were altered. Men played their roles sequentially focusing on one single productive role, while women played their roles simultaneously balancing the demands of each role within the limited time available. The migration of both men and women in search of water and pasture for livestock in Kiruhura district distorted gender roles of women. These findings imply that women and girl-children had a heavier work-load and were the most affected in both districts. The economic activities of both women and men were significantly hampered. In Kiruhura district, 17.6% of the households had no crop produce to sell, 11.6% sold their cattle and 10.1% reported low milk production. In Isingiro district, 32.3% reported reduction of crop yields and 22.6 % reduction in milk production and goats were found to be resilient to drought. Qualitative data revealed that the economic effects of climate change affected the social lives of communities. Men migrated to search for alternative sources of income. Serious cases of domestic violence, changes in family relations and human-wild wife conflicts were reported. The effects of drought were dire because of communities’ dependence on rain-fed agriculture. There were no significant differences in gender responses in identifying coping mechanisms to deal with climate change. Additionally, there were no salient climate changes coping strategies adopted. On a low scale, communities migrated to the neighbouring districts and into LMNP in search of pasture and water; found alternative sources of income, sold cattle at salvage prices and reduced daily food intake. The majority men and women in communities surrounding LMNP were not aware of the existence of formal institutions that render climate services to the communities. There was lack of knowledge of policies that exist for climate change mitigation with weak formal and informal institutional support. It was therefore recommended that a multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary gender transformative approach be used to create a meaningful dialogue in designing sustainable methods of coping up and mitigating effects of climate change. One way of approaching this is to implement gendered Climate Change Smart Action Labs.