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Research Proposal on The Impact of Climatic Change on Pastoralist Communities: A Case Study of Karamoja Sub-Region, Uganda

The Impact of Climatic Change on Pastoralist Communities: A Case Study of Karamoja Sub-Region, Uganda


I Introduction

            This paper presents a proposal to research and explore the perceptions of Ugandan living in pastoralist communities in Karamoja sub-region about the impact of climatic change. Karamoja region is divided into six districts namely Abim, Kotido, Moroto, Kaabong, Nakapirpirit and the newly created Amudat. In this study, how pastoralist communities resident perceive the effects of climatic change in their respective communities will be investigated. A pastoralist community basically refers to a community that is directly related to the environment. This is because pastoralist communities are highly dependent on livestock production on the availability of natural resources such as water and pasture. 

II Brief Review of Literature

Climate change

            In the context of environmental policy, climate change typically refers to the changes in the modern climate. Major causes of climate change include plate tectonics, solar output, orbital variations, volcanism, ocean variability and human influences. Sea level changes are one of the physical evidences of climatic changes. Sea level changes are apparent in local and ecstatic sea level, short term and periodic changes and long term changes such as the effects on volume or mass of the ocean. Anthropogenic climate change is more generally known as global warming. To wit, global warming is caused by human activities that induce emissions of greenhouse gases into the air specially because of burning of fossil fuels resulting to climate changes and rising sea levels.

            Recently, the issue of climate change had made its way in the forefront of global debate. There had been talks about the politics and economics of the matter as well as its social dimensions. Held on March 5, 2008 in Romania, the Social Dimensions of Climate Change workshop addressed various implications of climate change on different societal concerns including migration, space consumption, basic needs, rural institutions, social policies, indigenous people and livelihood among others. At the very least, climate change could undermine human development processes as it could vehemently spread disease, decline agricultural yields and damage the primary industries and fisheries as stated by the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). Further, global warming will be most accountable for the occurrence of natural disasters, extreme weather and eventual water shortages.

            Climate change will expose the populace to intense health threats and infectious diseases specifically water-borne diseases and allergies as well. The two most common diseases that will emerge are dengue fever and malaria because of the spread of mosquitoes and other vectors as main carriers from either too cold or too dry places resulting to widespread increased in diarrhea and cholera. More extreme weather, further, will have an effect on and eventually damage bodily health and sanitary infrastructure resulting to inflated morbidity and mortality rates especially for the very young and the elderly.

            ScienceDaily, as well as the US Department of Energy, discovered that there is a necessity to understand atmospheric smog formation since experiences of higher heat as a result of increased ozone and smog formation in higher-heat climates will disproportionately affect the mounting of ambient temperatures implicating fresh, consumable goods like meat and fish and thus risking the health and food supply security. Apart, adversities of global warming will deliver drought, El Niño and other harsh conditions for water and soil. Notably, farming and fishing are the major sources of employment and livelihood of most poor-country, rural-dwellers. Malnourishment and joblessness will be the staggering effects exacerbated by decline in grain cropping, swine and poultry and forestry.

            Putting all the climate adversities together, the outcome will be collective migration which will impact housing and wellbeing of the people in most urban areas as these rural dwellers were displaced by inundations and droughts and this could lead to more serious problem. In fact, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that by 2080, 1.1 – 3.2 billion will experience water scarcity, 200 – 600 million hunger and 2 – 7 million coastal flooding each year. Consequently, social tension, violence and crime rates will be likely to increase.   CANA also states that the concentration of the people in certain places, including slum areas, shantytowns, emergency camps or refuges, and the subsequent occurrence of shortage in water, food and shelter facilitate faster transmission of the disease, hunger, deaths and thus famine.

Climate change in Uganda

            Magrath (2008) noted that climatic changes are happening in Uganda. Climate change had impacted agriculture, pastoralism and health and water. For instance, more erratic rainfalls are experienced from March to June, bringing drought and reductions in crop yields and plan varieties. On the other hand, rainfalls in the latter part of the year are reported as more intense and with destructive downpours that also bring floods, landslides and soil erosion. This brings to food insecurity in Uganda which is considered currently as a major challenge and climate shocks are worsening food insecurity. Impacts are greatest on the lives of ordinary people, particularly women. 

            In Uganda, the government is planning to counter climatic change and by aligning it to poverty reduction strategies and initiatives. Ugandan government had contemplated on implementing immediate and urgent adaptation measures. Having said this, climatic change in Uganda is not happening in isolation as it interacts with the existing problems and challenges such as deforestation, soil degradation, declining food security, declining fish stocks. Nonetheless, the people of Uganda are highly susceptible to current climatic variations and shocks (Magrath, 2008).

Effects of climatic change on pastoralism

            Pastoralism is considered to be one of the most appropriate and positive form of livelihood in the face of climatic change in Uganda. As such, climate change may open new opportunities for pastoralists although it can also offer much destruction to their very livelihood (Magrath, 2008). Pastoralists, as they are naturally nomadic, are adept in living with the unpredictability and variability of the climate. Pastoralists are said to move their herds purposefully and strategically, using their knowledge of land and climate, moving between dry lands and wetlands.

            Magrath (2008) also noted that pastoralists in Karamoja or the Karimojong people have had centuries of experience in dealing with regular droughts although they complain about the increasingly restricted movements they can deal with. Karimojong also complains about the fact that the government is not providing adequate agricultural and livelihood to them.

 III Problem Statement of the Research

            As the Deputy Director of UN World Food Programme Alix Loriston puts it, climate change has a strong impact in Karamoja which is now approaching an emergency status. This is more so because climate change is unconsciously targeting the source of income of the people, that is, pastoralism. While pastoralism is the main source of income in the region, harsh weather conditions could not allow pastoralists to grow food so that they can supplement their traditional pastoralist and livestock practices. For other Karimojongs who embrace farming, as they are farming year in and year out, mostly they don’t harvest. As such, since the region lacks water and pasture, climate changes are worsening the situation as Karimojongs -- pastoralists and non-pastoralists -- are experiencing low outputs/yields (Miti, 2009).  

            Karimojong is a semi-arid region which has typically experienced drought since the 1960s, every five to ten years. However, since 2000, drought has become more frequent and more disastrous compared to that of previous decades. Absence of effective irrigation systems also exacerbates extreme drought for two years straight, preventing harvests altogether and leading to food insecurity. Drought had also killed animals especially goats and calves which are mainly used for pastoralism. Having said this, Karamojans feel that they are experiencing the consequences of climate change in their own bodies such as malnutrition for the children and other diseases to adult Karamojans (DCA, 2010).

According to the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA), even under normal circumstances, these pastoralist communities are often confronted with extreme challenges in meeting basic needs because of significant reductions in land and water available for pastoralism. These are the resultants of desertification, bush encroachment, soil erosion, population growth and political and economic marginalization. Such a scarcity of resources had resulted in increased conflict between agricultural and pastoral groups as well as between competing pastoral communities.  

            If this is the case, how can pastoralist communities thrive in light of various environmental changes as brought by the climatic change? DCHA also noted that because of pastoralist communities’ reliance on scarce resources, they are particularly vulnerable to any natural- or human-caused disaster. There would be drought, food shortages, disease, severe cold, lack of access to grazing lands, looting and conflict. As these effects accumulate, residents of pastoral communities and their assets will deplete further hence communities will become more vulnerable.

IV Aims and Objectives

            The main aim of the study is to explore how climate change is affecting the agricultural and livelihood situation of Karimojong pastoralists and their communities. In lieu with this, the following specific objectives will be addressed:

·         Determine the impact of climate change on pastoralism sustainability in Karimojong sub-region

·         Distinguish how such climatic changes are countered by Karimojong pastoralists

·         Determine how climatic change can be advantageous or disadvantageous to Karimojong pastoralists  

V Statement of the Design and Methodology

Research philosophy

            This study will adapt an interpretivist approach in research. Interpretivism is the necessary research philosophy for this study because it allows the search, of the ‘details of the situation, to understand the reality or perhaps a reality working behind them’ (Saunders et al, 2003). From the interpretivist perception, it is necessary to explore the subjective meanings motivating people’s actions in order to understand their actions. In particular, the study will adapt interpretive epistemology which simply refers to the philosophical underpinning of the research. Interpretive epistemology has a basic assumption that knowledge can only be created and understood from the point of view of the individuals who live and work in a particular culture, in our case, the Ugandan culture.

            Therefore, every individual acts in situation and makes sense of what is happening based on experiences of the situation and the expectations people bring into it. This means that there may be different understandings and interpretations of reality and interpretive epistemology leads to accessing meanings made by others and describe how they come to make those meanings (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006, p, 14). The choice of this philosophy is important because it guides the research design, the research approach, choice of methods, analysis of the findings, and even the presentation.

Research strategy

            Research strategy adapted for this study is descriptive as it aims to present current facts about the impact of climatic change in pastoralist communities. According to Creswell (1994), a descriptive research intends to present facts concerning the nature and status of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study. Descriptive studies also concerns the relationships and practices that exist, beliefs and processes that are ongoing, effects that are being felt or trends that are developing.

            Case study method will be also applied. Robson (2002) defines case study as a “strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence.” Case study approach would be most appropriate to exclude occurrences of climatic change and as it impacts the pastoralist communities in Karamoja. One of the threats to reliability which is subject of participant error will be addressed by means of conducting survey at the closest time possible.

            As such, cross-sectional design is chosen for this study because of the time constraint. Saunders et al (2003) noted that cross-sectional research is a study of a particular phenomenon (or phenomena) at a particular time. Accordingly, cross-sectional studies often employ the survey strategy, and they may be seeking to describe the incidence of a phenomenon or to compare factors in various settings.

VI Sources and Acquisition of Data

            In this study, primary and secondary research will be both incorporated. The reason for this is to be able to provide adequate discussion for the readers that will help them understand more about the issue and the different variables that involve with it. The primary data for the study will be represented by the survey results that will be acquired from the respondents. A semi-structured questionnaire will be developed for this research, which will be in two parts: demography and questions about the impact of climatic change in pastoralist communities of Karamoja region.

            According to Commonwealth of Learning (2000), surveys may also be done to measure the extent and nature of effect and the exposed impact of a project to the population for a reasonable length of time. Basically, the questionnaire will contain statements that can be answered through ranking and will also contain open-ended questions. A five-point Likert Scale is the technique to be used to measure the responses of the respondents on the ranking statements.

            On the other hand, the literature reviews to be presented in the second chapter of the study will represent the secondary data of the study. The secondary sources of data will come from published articles including journals, magazines and newspapers and these and related studies. Sometimes, secondary research is required in the preliminary stages of research to determine what is already known and what new data are required, or to inform research design. In this paper, existing findings on journals and existing knowledge on books will be used as secondary research. Basically, interpretation will be conducted which can account as qualitative in nature.

VII Method of Data Analysis

            Data obtained will be analyzed with descriptive statistics analysis using SPSS version 14.0. The data results of the study will be analyzed by determining their corresponding frequency, percentage and weighted mean. The following statistical formulas will be used:

            1.         Percentage – to determine the magnitude of the responses to the questionnaire.


                        % = -------- x 100         ;                       n – number of responses

                                    N                                             N – total number of respondents

            2.         Weighted Mean

                        f1x1 + f2x2  + f3x3 + f4x4  + f5x5

            x = ---------------------------------------------  ;


                                    where:             f – weight given to each response

                                                x – number of responses

                                                xt – total number of responses

            Further, deductive quantitative techniques of data analysis will be also incorporated. One of the disadvantages of this method is that it may not be able to obtain adequate informations must from the informants as the statements are already limited within the questionnaire. To address this matter, it will be ensured that the questionnaire will be carefully designed and pre-tested prior to actual implementation. Results will be acquired by means of tabulating the data collected using SPSS software. Responses of pastoralist communities residents in Karamoja will be analyzed with the use of ANOVA. Comparisons of data will be also obtained through ANOVA.

VIII Form of Presentation

            The dissertation will be presented in written form with the addition of data charts which will present the project’s results. The first chapter of the study will present and discuss the problems and objectives of the study. The second chapter on the other hand will present the various related literatures that were reviewed for the study. Chapter 3, on the other hand, will discuss the methods and procedures that will be used in the study. Chapter 4 will present the results of the study in tables along with their specific interpretations. Finally, the fifth chapter will present the conclusion and discussion of the study. Further, some of the analyzed data will be illustrating using pie charts and network charts but this may not be confirmed until survey data had been analyzed.    

IX Timetable















Read literature













Finalize objectives













Draft preliminary literature review














Devise research approach













Review secondary data













Organize survey













Develop survey questions













Conduct survey













Analyze secondary & primary data













Evaluate data













Draft findings chapter













Complete remaining chapters













Submit to tutor and await feedback













Revise draft and format for submission













Print, bind and submit















Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) 2005, Multi-Sectoral Interventions in Pastoralist Communities, USAID.

Commonwealth of Learning 2000, Manual for Educational Media Researchers: Knowing your Audience, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), Vancouver, Canada.

Creswell, J W 1994, Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches, Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California.

DanChurchAid (DCA) 2010, Uganda: Climate change and adaptation strategies in the Karamoja Sub Region.

Hatch, M J & Cunliffe, A L 2006, Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Magrath, J 2008, Turning Up the Heat: Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda, Oxfam.

Miti, J 2009, Uganda: Climate Change Fuels Conflicts in Karamoja, All Africa online.

Robson, C 2002, Real world research, 2nd edn, Blackwell, Oxford.

Saunders, M, Lewis, P and Thornhill, A 2003, Research Methods for Business Students, 3rd edn, Prentice Hall Financial Times, London.





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