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  • David Oming

Floods in Kasese: Small-Scale Farmers Demand Immediate Action

In Uganda, floods are not just a seasonal inconvenience but a recurring catastrophe that devastates lives and livelihoods. Nowhere is this more evident than in Kasese, a district in the Western region, where the consequences of climate change and human negligence converge to create a perfect storm. It’s time for the government and all stakeholders to step up with urgent and decisive action.

Kasese, nestled within the Rwenzori mountains, has become a hotspot for flash floods. The district’s steep slopes and valleys, combined with increasingly erratic weather patterns driven by global climate change, make it particularly vulnerable. The result? Rivers like Nyamwamba, Mubuku, and Nyamugasani frequently burst their banks during heavy rains, causing widespread devastation.

The alarming rise in flood frequency is not just a natural phenomenon; it’s exacerbated by human activities. Deforestation for agriculture and charcoal burning have stripped the land of its natural defenses. "People in our area have cut down trees for charcoal burning and construction purposes, but their actions are costing us a lot," laments Boosi Sarapio, a local resident. "We need clear actions for planting trees to protect the river banks. We can’t sleep well at night because we are afraid of the running water sweeping our houses anytime."

Furthermore, poor urban planning has compounded the problem. Buildings and settlements encroach on floodplains, obstructing natural water flow and creating deadly flash floods. The inadequate infrastructure in Kasese has turned once-thriving farming communities into disaster zones. "The rapid rising waters catch residents off guard, leading to the destruction of houses and physical harm," reports Beatrice Pangani, Chairperson of ESAFF Kasese.

The toll on small-scale farmers is staggering. Asanairi Bukanywa Muhindo, the Agricultural Officer for Kasese district, reveals the grim statistics: 25 acres of crops were destroyed, 46 fish ponds were ruined, 21 poultry birds were swept away, and 11 domestic animals were killed. "The floods have affected small-scale farmers so much that there is a likelihood of food insecurity in the district," warns Muhindo. "We call upon the government and other stakeholders to provide relief to the community members to help them adapt to the effects."

Displacement and humanitarian crises follow in the wake of these floods. Hundreds lose their homes, and with them, their livelihoods. Essential infrastructure—homes, schools, hospitals, and roads—lies in ruins, placing a significant financial burden on already struggling communities. "In Road Barrier, the floods washed away our crops. My bananas, maize and vegetables are no more. Other small-scale farmers lost their coffee plantations," cries out Ngimba Joy, Chairperson of Road Barrier Upper Community Agroecology School. "We call upon the government to compensate us for the losses we have made."

The environmental impact is equally dire. Flooding causes severe soil erosion, loss of fertile land, and water quality degradation, threatening both agricultural production and public health.

This is a call to arms for the government and all relevant stakeholders. The time for half-measures and empty promises is over. Small-scale farmers are calling for mass reforestation initiatives focusing on planting trees that will stabilise the soil, reduce runoff, and restore natural water absorption capabilities, reducing the likelihood of future floods. Focus should also be put on the construction of flood control infrastructure, like drainage channels, retention basins, and other flood control structures, which will help manage and direct water flow during heavy rains.

Small-scale farmers are also calling on the government and partners to support the installation of functional early warning systems. This would contribute to improved weather forecasting, and early warning systems are crucial to providing residents with timely alerts, allowing for evacuations and preparations that can save lives. There is further need for community education and engagement, including ongoing education programmes that inform residents about flood risks and preparedness measures, enhancing community resilience. The government should design programmes that will provide the immediate support needed to help affected farmers rebuild their livelihoods, including restocking programs and financial compensation for lost crops and livestock.

The flooding in Kasese is not just a local issue; it is a stark warning of the broader impacts of climate change and environmental mismanagement. The government, NGOs, and international bodies must collaborate to build a resilient and adaptive Kasese capable of withstanding future floods. The stakes are high, and the time to act is now. ESAFF Uganda will continue mobilising for local support for our members in Kasese district, as we hope that the government of Uganda will take on our suggested drastic measures to avert future challenges.



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