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5 questions about climate change to expert Aron Aoja

Why climate change is forcing millions of people to flee

Floods, droughts and other extreme weather events are forcing millions of people to flee. What are the consequences of global warming? And what to do about this? We asked Aron Aoja from Uganda, climate expert and former ZOA employee.

Interview with climate expert Aron Aoja

Five questions about climate change

In several ZOA project countries, the effects of global warming have been noticeable in recent years. What exactly are the consequences of climate change and what solutions are there? We asked climate expert Aron Aoja. Until recently, he was manager for ZOA’s Green Energy project in northern Uganda. This project aims to improve the living conditions of refugees and local communities, particularly through natural resources and clean energy.

1. How can you recognize climate change in Uganda?

“When we talk about the impacts of climate change, we usually look at weather patterns. In Uganda we can see that these weather patterns have changed significantly. When it rains, it rains really heavily and over a longer period of time, with floods and, increasingly, even hailstorms. On the other hand, the dry season extends significantly longer in different regions and burns crops.

In the past, Uganda had 2 to 3 planting seasons per year. One of them is no longer taking place and the other two are no longer reliable because the weather has changed so much.”


2. How does climate change affect people?

“Due to the crop failures, both food and seeds have become very expensive. Cereals such as corn, sesame and other plants such as beans and soy, which are staple foods in Uganda, are particularly affected. The majority of people in the northern regions of Uganda are farmers. Therefore, climate change affects a large part of the population.

In some regions, their cultivation has even become almost impossible because droughts have changed the nature of the soil. They can hardly store water and plants are becoming increasingly stressed. As a result, they continue to lose water and their nutrients. So there is not only less food available, but also less nutritious food. This has a particular impact on children who need nutrients for their healthy development. It’s a big problem.”


Crops are destroyed due to climate change in Uganda

3. What are the consequences of weather extremes such as heavy rains and floods?

“Due to flooding, many fields rot because plants die if they are left in too much water for too long. Additionally, if the rains come too early, the seeds that have just been planted will be washed out before they can take root. In addition, storms with hailstones have become common lately, destroying crops before they can ripen. People in Uganda invest a lot to buy seeds. Most of them cannot cope with such a loss.

Pests are another problem. In recent years, Uganda has suffered from a real plague of the so-called armyworm, which eats the leaves of maize and thus destroys the plants. We found that it has adapted to the environment and is causing even more damage to the weakened plants.”


4. Do you think compensation payments are helpful?

“In affected countries like Uganda, the cost of rebuilding after climate disasters has skyrocketed. In many areas affected by severe drought or flooding, infrastructure such as roads and schools have been destroyed. Landslides are also becoming more common and have resulted in the loss of property, or have cut off access to medicine, education and markets.

However, repair costs are too high and local government revenues are insufficient to support these communities. Compensation payments could therefore be an option. At the same time, we should also support these communities to adapt and strengthen their resilience to increasingly common climate-related shocks.”


Two ZOA workers in Uganda in a field

5. What are your five solutions to climate change?

  • “Firstly, we need to support people with sustainable systems, especially for irrigation. Solar cells could, for example, help them pump water and survive droughts better.
  • Secondly, we need more training to help them find sustainable ways to protect the environment. For example, ZOA teaches how to use recycled waste for cooking and create energy-saving ovens. These techniques allow people to save energy and reduce their impact on the environment.
  • Thirdly, there should be greater access to clean energy for lighting and perhaps even cooking. Solar energy for example must be affordable and available to people everywhere. This can greatly support the affected countries. We should also sensitize them about these different energy sources and sustainable ways to use their natural resources. They can protect the environment and support their livelihoods at the same time.
  • Another solution is to expand research into renewable energy to make it more practical and available. We have to find ways to make them really useful for people. For example, so far we have seen solar lighting, but solar power for cooking is not yet available. We should do more research into these other forms of renewable energy.
  • The last solution I can think of is greater collaboration with various stakeholders, especially the government. Climate change must be a priority and receive more funding. International organisations, in particular the UN, humanitarian organisations, ECHO, the EU and various donors, must work together and help communities to mitigate and adapt to some of their challenges. Together they can develop possible and available solutions.”