I’ve made remote Amuria District my base this year. However, I may not be able to go back for some time as all the roadways into the main town have been rendered impassable by floods. A month ago we were wondering if the rain was ever going to start. Now it has come full-force, isolating villages, bringing down huts, and flooding farmers’ fields. For the moment, more work from PSI has kept me in Kampala. Below, a motion picture of the dreary view from my concrete house in Amuria town.
Nature is never kind in this part of Uganda. Far from the dependable, fertile, rolling hills and mountains of the west, the eastern land of the Teso tribe almost counts on nature’s capriciousness, alternating between flood and famine. “Every year it changes,” says Samuel Opio, a resident of Kapelebyong, a sub-county of Amuria District. “Some years there’s too much sunshine, some years too much rain. This year the rain started in March, and it has already resulted in floods.”
Last year only a few showers fell from the sky causing widespread hunger and skyrocketing food prices. Conversely, 2006-2007 saw some of the worst flooding in memory in northeast Uganda. The devastating waters affected 17 districts and resulted in a 60% crop loss in the northeast, a delayed second planting season, the uprooting and relocation of entire villages, and the outbreak of waterborne diseases like cholera.
There’s isn’t one stretch of tarmac in Amuria District. All the roads are as you see them below. The sandy red mud turns into an all out slip n’ slide at the slightest downpour. While being based out of such a remote area of East Africa has had it’s rewards, it’s also quite challenging.
The village of Asuksuk in Amuria District’s Kapelebyong sub-county has been particularly hard-hit by flooding this year. Mr. Philipo Odella (pictured below) has lost nearly his entire harvest of cassava, peanuts, corn, millet and sorghum. Walking through his cassava fields things look pretty green, but you can smell the roots starting to rot below. “Even if I pull them (the cassava root) up now, there’s not even any sunshine to dry them out.”
“Why not grow rice?,” I counter, but the irregularity of rainfall from week to week makes it too risky a prospect.
“We have appealed to the sub-county headquarters and we are hoping for word that we’ll receive tents and food” says John Robert Ogwang, a Kapelebyong LC (local council leader) and resident of Asuksuk village. While the loss of home and harvest now is nowhere near as widespread as it was three years ago, this is of little comfort to those in Kapelebyong, where most endure the heavy rains in delicate grass huts.