By Dr. Herbert Kasiita
My second visit to Nakasongola district was again under the Climate Change Adaptation and ICT, CHAI project thanks to the Africa Climate Leadership (AfriCLP) Fellowship. This time I was taken aback when I saw mature men and women taking to the stage and display a feat of pure drama. This time I did not travel alone, I moved with Prof Sewankambo, a co-principal investigator on the CHAI project, Mr. Patrick Kibaya the Project Manager and Gerald Taremwa a fellow Budonian, one of the most prolific writers for Uganda’s leading daily, The New Vision. We arrived slightly beyond noon and landed in the middle of business for the local council of Nakasongola in session. It looked like real parliament where the Mayor was the speaker all dressed in the political robe. The local legislators looked sharp and active. All submitting their suggestions in harmony as guided by thy His Worship the Speaker of the august house. My team and I where ushered to the only four empty seats in the middle of the Hall. No sooner had we sat than the honorable councilor submitted a motion demanding answers on the payments for sitting allowances of the ongoing council meeting. It was four days way from Christmas and this was the last piece of business before the long anticipated holidays. I nutshell, the legislators wanted to know if there was money to pay for their current council sitting before they continued deliberations. There were to and forth unclear attempts to the main question in the house until they summoned the Town Clerk to clarify on the issue. I enjoyed the fact that three languages were being used in a formal setting which included English, Luganda and Lugwere. When touching and sensitive issues were brought forth, English would quickly be discarded. The august house went into a commotion until one councilor moved a motion to adjourn the session until payment is assured for the legislators. The motion was seconded even before the Speaker responded.
It was common knowledge that the local basket had no money due to several reasons but one of the most significant one was the after effect of Quarantine. Being a cattle corridor, the biggest percentage of there local revenue emanated from the cattle markets. In the face of a perpetual quarantine due to Foot and Mouth Disease, FMD the office of the Town Clerk was denied revenue collection. In an exclusive interview with the District Production of Officer, I was made aware that FMD was associated with drought and drought has been prolonged due to climate change. Dr. Sam Eswagu, the District Veterinary Officer has earlier said that cattle farmers in Nakasongola district are recovering from the big losses they suffered of rampant animal deaths due to an outbreak of the deadly foot and mouth disease in November last year. In a district that has an animal population of about 187,000 cows, the death of 11,000 cows within four months has affected almost all homesteads. He also had said that tt the height of the disease outbreak between January to March this year, a kilo of meat was sold at only 300 shillings, down from 2,000, while the price of milk went higher from 500 shillings per liter to 1,000 shillings. The farmers suffered serious losses as most of them had to burn the meat of their dead animals and only sell the skin. A number of cattle farmers fear if the drought returns soon, their animals may be wiped out.
In another CHAI district, Jude Kaginda, the Sembabule district Finance Secretary, said that they had been performing poorly in local revenue collection over the last two years translating to about 43 percent. He added that besides individual losses suffered by livestock farmers resulting from
FMD, the district budget was equally affected by the quarantine to a loss of over 500 million shillings.
We really had a great discussion with the Production officer and came up with a few policy lines where one of them was to create an allowance where an Emergency state would be invoked and allow for alternative funding for local government activities. I was shocked how climate change is so closely linked to many crucial activities that drive our society. In my next visit we are going to explore how we can use information on outbreaks like FMD and other diseases to reduce climate related losses under the new phase of the CHAI project.
The district Medical Officer reading CHAI booklet
Ptrick, CHAI manager presenting to the council
Interacting with district officials after council