Climate Witness: Mbiwo Constantine Kusebahasa, Uganda
“Before the 1970’s, we did not know what malaria was”
My name is Mbiwo Constatine Kusebahasa. I was born in 1938 to the Bakonjo tribe, a hardy and friendly people in the Rwenzori Mountains. I have a wife and children.
I am a farmer on the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. I started farming around 1954; we would plant our crops and get good harvest. We grow maize, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, and vegetables. However, starting in the 1970’s, I started to notice gradual changes in our environment.
Changing our farming practices
We used to have two planting seasons. The first was in March-April and the second was in July-August. But now, planting our crops as we used to earlier is no more. Now we start planting in September, hoping that the rains would come and our crops would flourish. We have been forced to adapt to cope with the changing weather patterns.
Decline of snow on the mountains
We used to have white stuff (glaciers and snow) that was spreading all over the mountain tops. It was clearly visible from the foothills. That is where we thought the rains came from. However, all the glaciers have disappeared!
Rise of malaria
When I was young, this area was very cold. We needed heavy blankets to keep warm, especially during the night. Now the area is much warmer. Before the 1970’s, we did not know what malaria was. The mosquitoes that spread malaria are thriving due to the higher temperatures. At present, there are many cases of malaria in the Kasese area.
Stretching across an area 112km long and 48km wide along the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the Rwenzori Mountains. The mountains’ glaciers and biodiversity are spectacular and a marvel to behold. Rivers emerging from the glaciers provide life-sustaining freshwater to wildlife, livestock and communities over an even larger area.
“People belonging to snow”
Agriculture has formed the principle livelihood of the Bakonjo–a tough and friendly people living in the mountains. The Bakonjo owe their existence to the Rwenzori Mountains. In fact, Rwenzori is derived from “Rwenzururu”; “people belonging to snow”.
For the community around here, they are noticing physical evident signs of change in the environment. The once clearly visible snow and glaciers on the peaks of the Rwenzori are slowly but surely receding, quite a distressing phenomenon for Constantine.
According to a scientific survey, the glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountains have reduced from 650 hectares in 1906 to about 105 hectares in 2005.
WWF Climate Witness
The MMS Bulletin publishes several stories by the so called Climate Witnesses. This is a web based project of WWF International.
Climate change is already affecting the lives of people everywhere. Through Climate Witness, WWF helps people around the world share their story of how climate change impacts their lives and what they are doing to take action. All Climate Witness stories have had an independent scientific review by members of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel who provide their time voluntarily.
WWF writes: “Time is running out. We need political leaders to commit to an ambitious, fair and science-based deal. Climate action will be beneficial for the economy and the survival of nations and people.”