• Authored By: Christine Arwata Alum and Amos Sanday
05 Mar 2024

Incidences and severity of floods and droughts have increased significantly in Uganda in recent years due to climate change. One of the impacts of climate change is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like floods and droughts with associated impacts on water scarcity, food insecurity and people’s livelihood. On the other hand, urbanization and population growth are also major contributors to water shortage. Increased food consumption needs due population growth puts pressure on water resources.

Even though the agricultural sector is already experiencing challenges related to climate change for instance the floods and drought, the sector is the largest user of water, especially in irrigation, aquaculture, and livestock. Therefore, it is the most highly impacted sector by water scarcity. Consideraing that agricultural production in Uganda is mainly rainfed, unreliable rainfall due to climatic change affects agricultural production, which reduces crop yields and increases the vulnerability of farmers. Water scarcity is linked to hunger, food insecurity and poverty. Therefore, increasing amounts of water are needed to grow more food to meet current and future food demands.

Another impact of drought is the long distances that people have to walk to find water. This has an impact especially on women because most of the work related to fetching water in Uganda is done by women and children particulary girls. As such, girls spend significant time fetching water instead of going to school and women miss out on participating in income-generating activities. Therefore, increasing access to water is essential to advancing gender equality. The National Service Delivery Survey 2021 indicates that 38 percent of household members who usually collected water were female adults, and 23 percent were female minors. Moreover, they had to walk longer distances during the dry season.  Moving long distance to access water sources has been cited as a major constraint to non-use of safe water during the dry season. Unreliable water sources are also one of the factors contributing to non-use of safe water during the dry season.

One of the ways to climate change adaptation is water management infrastructure development and technology. This includes 1) use of efficient irrigation technologies, which improve the precision of water application and ultimately increases crop yields. 2) rainwater harvesting structures. Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection, storage and utilization of rainwater for different purposes, including irrigation, livestock and domestic use.

Rainwater harvesting is a valuable climate change adaptation strategy. Photo/Courtesy

Rainwater harvesting can particularly be useful for agricultural adaptation to climate change. Captured rainwater can be used for irrigation, supplementing crop water requirements during dry periods and reducing reliance on unpredictable rainfall patterns.

This can improve crop yields, enhance food security, and support the resilience of farming communities. In light of increasing water scarcity aggravated by climatic changes, rainwater harvesting has emerged as one of the ways to increase water supply.

Rainwater harvesting has potential benefits including, reduction of flood risks and damages, increase in water supply, reduction in surface run-off which is a major cause of floods, landslides and land degradation. In addition, it lessens the amount of pollutants discharged by run-off water. Rainwater harvesting systems, such as rain gardens and porous pavements, can help to capture and absorb excess rainwater, reducing surface runoff and mitigating the impacts of flooding. Examples of rainwater harvesting infrastructure include tanks or underground reservoirs used to collect water. According to the National Service Delivery Survey 2021, smallholder farmers mainly use mulching and wetland reclamation as the main technologies in water conservation for agricultural production.

One of the objectives outlined in the National Development Plan III (NDP III) is to ensure availability of adequate and reliable quality freshwater resources for various purposes. To achieve this, one of the actions involves constructing water management infrastructure such as small dams for water harvesting, as well as structures for soil and water conservation. Rainwater harvesting is a valuable climate change adaptation strategy that offers multiple benefits for water security, agricultural production, food security and ecosystem resilience. By harnessing the power of rainwater, we can build more sustainable and resilient water systems that are better equipped to cope with the challenges of a changing climate.

All photos/courtesy

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