It is probably common knowledge now that increasingly mountain ecosystems are fragile, with the poor facing the brunt of shocks from hazards amidst climate changing conditions. The persistent loss of life and hard earned property means far a lot especially amongst the mountain poor communities. Yet multi-institutional humanitarian efforts have tirelessly endeavoured but not halted the problems. Hazards still occur threatening to reverse decades long achieved developments. The urgency for evidence-based solutions to deter such threats is thus un-disputable.
A beautifully coined project in the name of BREAD, a Partnership for Building Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods to climate change and Disaster risks in Uganda, hopes to make a difference in the thinking of how to address the hazard or disaster challenges faced by mountain communities. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Universities in the north (Lund and Upsala in Sweden) and south (Makerere and Gulu in Uganda) secured a five-year (2015-2020) funding from SIDA largely to strengthen institutional capacity and preparedness in tackling eminent hazards and disasters.
Senior experts and junior researchers are working closely to sharpen the research questions so as to answer to societal demands. Pertinent questions pursued include; what are the dynamics and causes of persistent hazards raising havoc in the region? What are the data and tools needs of the local government technical staff? How can researchers influence policy and decisions to mitigate the hazards in the region? How resilient are ecosystems in the region under changing climatic and socio-economic conditions? Where is the middle ground for researchers, practitioners and policy makers to influence action and uptake of the research information?
Three PhD students, recruited from the participating institutions in the south, are pursuing research on floods and urban resilience to climate change impacts in Mt. Elgon region. Small grants were also extended to the junior and senior staff who are working on diverse weather/climate disaster related issues in other hot spot areas of South western highlands. As well two post docs have received support to implement their research on vulnerability and climate modeling in south western highlands of Uganda.
The team is working in collaboration with the local government technical staff and communities to generate data and knowledge production. It is hoped this will empower the local district staff in guiding others or making good decisions prior to, during times of or after a disaster.
As part of the goal in knowledge production and sharing, BREAD researchers are expected to publish in peer reviewed journals and also disseminate their findings at workshops and conferences. Some publications achieved so far can be accessed on the project website. Tools and new approaches generated from BREAD will be available for application in similar environments elsewhere in the world.
Our desire is to have a state-of-art-science research faculty to adequately respond to national demands in disaster risk research and reduction. We are open to anyone interested in sharing experience and will continue to keep you posted in future.
This post has been written by Dr Bob Nakileza, Senior Researcher at the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences of the Makerere University in Uganda.