In countries around the world, farming households are facing the wrath of unpredictable climate patterns. This has not only resulted in hunger related deaths, but also in an increase in the number of persons living below the poverty line in many developing countries, especially in Africa where vulnerability is high.
The year 2017 saw over 30 million people facing starvation in East Africa, South Sudan, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria alone, according to reports by Oxfam International. Although these regions have experienced drought conditions in the last three to five years, the intensity and frequency of drought have increased – along with high food loses and hunger. This has threatened the livelihoods of the 80 percent of households in these regions that directly depend on subsistence farming. Some World Bank studies in Uganda show that 10 million people slipped below the poverty line in the last five years. This situation may reverse efforts by development groups to help vulnerable populations out of poverty, especially if nothing is urgently done to reduce the effects of climate change.
As a social worker in Uganda working to improve food security and incomes among smallholder farmers, I often get the opportunity to interact with farmers and feel their frustration as their crops go to waste. My most recent visit to Magoro village, in the Katakwi District of northeastern Uganda, brought tears to my eyes. There, I met an elderly man called Okello who was emaciated, with bare bones and countable ribs visible through the tattered clothes he wore. He had tied his stomach with a piece of cloth so as not to feel hunger. “Tying my stomach keeps my intestines together and helps me not to feel hunger”, he said. This part of Uganda, which was once the leading producer of beef and dairy products in the country, has lost its relevance in the livestock industry and now experiences hunger episodes every year due to frequent crop failures.