In Northeast Uganda, “God Brings the Clouds and Clouds Bring the Rains”

Chris Herlinger | April 30, 2015

Sofia Nalom Photo: Chris Herlinger / CWS

Sofia Nalom Photo: Chris Herlinger / CWS

Near Kotido, Uganda — In the Karamoja region of northeast Uganda, talk about climate change is well beyond the theoretical.

People here know the changes in climate are real.

Though the region has had ups and downs in recent years with rain and dry spells, the overall patterns in general are clear: drought is taking more of a toll on communities. As a result, day-to-day life is becoming increasingly tough.

Yet communities are taking things in their own hands and trying to mitigate the situation. They are doing so under the aegis of the TOGETHER program, a five-year initiative now in its fourth year.

TOGETHER employs the competencies and expertise of Church World Service, MAP International, ECHO, Inc., and the chief funder, St. Mary’s United Methodist Foundation.

The combination of various areas of expertise allows for a single focus: holistic community development.

Of course, change isn’t happening quickly, but it is happening.

Not far from the village of Losakucha Parish, the emphasis is on tree planting and the creation of water catchments so that vegetation can expand, soil erosion can decrease and the parched land can be cooled.

With more greenery, comes more water.

Resident Sofia Nalom told me that the increase in trees, shrubbery and  vegetation will give her and her neighbors a most-welcome boost. Shade and vegetation can reduce soil erosion that is often lost to the region’s harsh and unforgiving winds.

Locham Lopio Photo: Chris Herlinger / CWS

Locham Lopio Photo: Chris Herlinger / CWS

Of course more vegetation, such as strains of peas grown here, means more food as well, making the village more food secure.

“I know it’s working,” Nalom said of existing vegetation. To have more, she said, “will be like a dream.”

Not far from where I spoke to Nalom, another piece of the picture emerged. Lokiru Christine, the district environmental officer with the local Kotido government, works with the TOGETHER staff. She demonstrated to residents the importance of tree trimming, which helps trees in their growth, strengthening them to withstand the winds. And clippings from the trees are used for firewood and other purposes.

There is nothing new in this, she said. “We’re only reminding them of what their elders did when they were younger.”

One resident, Locham Lopio, said he can see the incremental changes are making a difference. It is now possible the land, or at least portions of it, have a chance to return to former greener states.

“God brings the clouds,” he said, “and clouds bring the rain.”

Chris Herlinger is the Senior Writer at CWS.