Climate change refers to any distinct change in the measures of climate such as rainfall, temperature, wind patterns among others and this is mainly attributed to anthropogenic activities. The impacts of climate change range from social, ecological and economic leading to the decline in biodiversity, agriculture products, and increased pests among others. Much as climate change is a global pandemic; the rural communities are more vulnerable compared to the counterparts. Climate changes differ from regions to sectors and here the agriculture sector is at a higher loss compared to other sectors. Rural communities face extreme levels of climate change impacts ranging from their livelihoods, rights and access to natural resources, culture, economic growth, availability and accessibility of traditional foods yet these have limited capacities to respond to climate change. The effects of climate change on the agriculture sector have led to increased food and nutrition security as a result of the lengthy scarcity periods.
In order to cope with the scarcity, many households compromise the quality and quantity of food, reduce on the numbers of meals per day, sell off assets, devise other means like hunting, fishing, gathering wild foods among others. There is therefore the need to revise traditional coping strategies but also develop new techniques that are favourable for the rural poor. Food and Nutrition insecurity is a critical challenge of the worlds that requires policy reforms as well as cooperation from local and international agencies.
ESAFF Uganda through the SD=HS project is supporting small-scale farmers in Amuria, Apac and Adjumani districts to ensure food and nutrition security through utilising the Neglected and underutilized Species (NUS). During the course of the project, farmers have appreciated their local diversity and this has increased the uptake of the NUS in the communities. AS a result, there is improvement in the nutrition status of over 600 households. These have embraced the different ways of preserving local food plants for scarcity period while ensuring that they maintain the nutritional values in these species. Further still, several households have set up kitchen gardens of over 5 different species of local foods thereby increasing on the supply of nutritious food in their communities. Some of the crops preserved for the scarcity period include, Eboo, Emalakany, cucumber, Bambara nuts,Apena, among others.
Men and women from Enapakinos FFS in Amuria district shared some of their coping strategies during scarcity period;
During the hunger period, women and children in the community hunt for termites from anthills because they have to eat.These are prepared as snacks or pasted with simsim or groundnuts to make sauce that is a delicacy in the community.
The men also play a big role in providing for their families, community-fishing days are organised and here men and boys go fishing with the hooks while the women and girls use the traditional baskets to trap the mudfish. – Alumo Loyce, Enapakinos FFS,Ogongora Sub county Amuria district.
Rural communities that mainly rely on agriculture for their day-to-day living are always affected in the face of economic and environmental challenges. Because of COVID-19, incomes decreased as food products became more expensive for most people to afford. This affected the availability of food in most communities as some farmers held their food stuffs for their own consumption hence accelerating the scarcity. The pandemic caused serious challenges in the food system but also presented opportunities for transformation in building resilience amidst the challenges like climate change.
As a group, we have also ventured in value addition of certain local food plants and here we are able to create an extra income that support group members in times of need. The beauty about value addition is the fact that we are able to create our own products and pass on the knowledge to the rest of the community. During the lockdown, we were able to educate people about the importance of the NUS. This eased the tension within the community as people resorted to using local food plants to guard against COVID-19 and improve nutrition in homes. - Eguyu James, Enapakinos FFS ogongora subcounty, Amuria district.
Food scarcity has created a compromising situation for most household where emphasis is on ensuring that there is food in the household other than considering the nutritional values in the food provided. There is need to influence policies that support environmental conservation as many of the communities are suffering in the face of hunger because of environmental detrition.
Food and nutrition insecurity is an urgent issue that needs urgent solutions. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG2 sets targets to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. The current COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for communities to appreciate the NUS as many people resorted to using these species to boost their immunity. Therefore, investment in sustainable agriculture systems will enhance food and nutrition security through rising incomes of the rural communities thus improving access to nutritious foods, and information on the utilization of food.There is need to ensure a smooth functional food system, the government should improve on the management of the consequences of the economic shocks including climate change.
Many studies have been conducted on climate change and its impacts; this information is freely and readily available to several users on how climate change affects the resilience, and adaptive capacity of rural communities. This information is however limited to the rural communities hence the need to disseminate and make it available in the communities since they largely depend on agriculture.There is need to enhance the coping and adaptive capabilities of the rural communities since they are at a more vulnerable stage due to fewer resources and alternatives. Therefore, there is need to enforce the risk mitigation and adaption policies in place to reduce on the vulnerability of rural communities in the different climate change conditions.