Beating the odds of climate change using the GALS methodology

Climate change and its impacts are the most severe long term environmental challenges faced worldwide. The rising impact of extreme weather events on agricultural systems has impacted small-scale farmers’ behaviour in the last few years. West Nile sub-region experiences a prevalent lack of climate change resilience and food security, yet most of the households in the sub-region are predominantly agrarian. Gender also plays a vital role in climate change adaptation and coping practices.

Jennifer Angua, a 38 year old small-scale farmer member of Uretriku farmer group in Ofua sub-county, Adjumani district in West Nile sub-region of Uganda and her husband Odu Steven, 38, from the Ofua farmer group in the same area are members of ESAFF, Adjumani. The couple has four children and, together as a family, have experienced the effect of climate change on their livelihood. They own 15 acres, but because of constraints like scarce labour and capital, they can only utilise about 8 acres.

Over the years, they have seen reduced yields, hunger and food insecurity primarily due to drought and floods that are less predictable. The crops in their gardens have been affected by pests like the fall armyworms and diseases. Their children have also experienced malnutrition as a result of insufficient nutritious food. The couple has stopped planting crops and varieties like simsim (sesame) and groundnuts that require a lot of labour with long maturity periods, yet most of the present varieties are highly affected by pests while in the garden. Currently, the household focuses on crops like cassava, maize and pigeon peas which have proven to be food security crops. Other members of the community share similar experiences.

“I no longer plant simsim because it rots in the garden. We have left many crop varieties because these weather changes can no longer allow them to perform very well in the soils. It is disappointing, but we have nothing to do.” Jennifer Angua.

Introduction to GALS methodology

Jennifer Angua and her husband were first introduced to the GALS methodology in 2012 when the household was struggling with working together. They were then faced with different gender challenges in their home, resulting in the division at the household level with poor coordination and development in the household.

Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) is a community-led empowerment methodology that aims at improving livelihood and gender justice in pro-poor communities in the value chain. The methodology uses visual diagramming tools enabling people at different levels in the chain to develop visions where they dream of their future, reflect on their present situations, identify challenges available opportunities, and distinguish possible relations and actions to their problems. The methodology also addresses power issues between communities and service providers, religious and traditional authorities, the private sector, and government actors.

Jennifer Angua and her husband managed to actively use the GALS Methodology to identify key gender challenges in their household and then draw a vision with critical actions to address these challenges. They later achieved the vision and started living as a happy family that the other community members admire.

Integrating GALS methodology to address climate change

Over the years, they started noticing how climate change has significantly affected the communities in Adjumani district, especially for small-scale farmers. Adjumani district experienced significant effects of climate change in 2017. Daily temperatures went to a record high above 32 degrees Celsius, and the community started getting puzzled on what they could do to address the situation.

Jennifer Angua and her husband, having known the strength of the GALS methodology, started engaging community members on using it in climate change adaptation. They used the knowledge and skills received from the training by ESAFF Uganda on integrating GALS methodology in climate change engagements.

As a household, they managed vigorously to use the GALS methodology to identify key challenges of climate change and later drive solutions for the same.

“We knew that we needed to take actions as a household to address some of the effects of climate change if we were to sustain the livelihood that we have built over the years as a family”, Jennifer Angua.

Applying the GALS tools

The family used different GALS methodology tools;

Challenge action tree – Jennifer Angua and her husband used the challenge action tree to define the root causes of climate change, including deforestation, increasing population that puts pressure on land, extensive mechanisation of agriculture, community bush burning, and cultivating the swamps among others. They also identified the potential solution, including planting trees, encouraging family planning, campaigns against tree cutting in the community, use of energy-saving stoves. In the challenge action tree, the roots are the causes, and the leaves are the solutions.

“As a family, we have so far planted over 200 trees in this community, these trees include both traditional and fruit trees like mangos. We know how trees are important in capturing carbon hence motivating us to plant more trees.” Odu Steven

Vision road journey – the family, used the vision road journey to develop a comprehensive one-year vision. Among the issues highlighted in their vision included access to education for their children, beating the effects of climate change on their farms, leading to better yields hence improving their earnings, access to better markets, employing more climate-resilient agriculture production methods, having enough food in the home among others. They also used the vision road journey to identify their key challenges and the current opportunities they can explore to make sure they achieve their vision.

Resource map – the family also used the resource map to identify the key areas where they can get help to achieve their vision. Using this tool, they identified stakeholders like Non-Governmental Organisations, local government officials, government programs, media among others. These stakeholders have had a role in mobilising masses, providing productive resources like seeds and ox ploughs, and building capacity in climate-resilient techniques.

“We found out that as a household, we couldn’t address these challenges related to climate change alone, so we used the resource map to show us the things we need, who has them, what we have like land and knowledge and how we can access the resources that we don’t have.” Jennifer Angua

Market road journey – the family, used the market road journey to identify strategic markets for their products with good prices. Due to reduced yields because of climate change, they needed to get markets that can give better prices to be able to increase earnings on their low yields.

Achieving results

As a result of employing the GALS methodology in adapting to climate change, the household has experienced a tremendous transformation over a period of time. The household has continued to work together, and they have different achievements that they can attest to. The GALS methodology helped Jennifer Angua and the husband to understand the climate change problem hence making them better prepared, so far, they have contributed towards restoring lost plants hence ensuring consistency in the food supply. They have resorted to using energy-saving stoves to protect the environment and reduce the use of wood fuel. They have been part of a group of small-scale farmers in their community that is engaging policymakers to address climate change.

Through their work as climate activists in the community, they managed to engage their local leaders with other small-scale farmers in the sub-county. The leaders developed a bylaw against bush burning. This will go a long way in preventing the bush burning activity that is affecting the soils and vegetation cover in the area.

“We call ourselves climate activists because we have used the GALS methodology to mobilise the community and highlight the need to take critical areas to address climate change.” Odu Steven

Recommendations

Both Odu Steven and Jennifer Angua make key recommendations toward building momentum to address climate change. They are proposing further strengthening of a community-led movement against deforestation and other activities that destroy the environment in their sub-county. They highlight the need to protect wetlands and swamps hence calling on different stakeholders, including local leaders, to educate people and also develop and implement laws that protect against such. They also call for the implementation of the bylaw against bush burning in their community and a launch for a mass tree planting campaign to complement the ones already in place. Odu Steven and Jennifer Angua also feel that small-scale farmers’ voices have been missing in climate change discussions at the policy level hence the need to create more spaces for small-scale farmers, especially women and youths, to highlight their concerns and propositions. They also note that the GALS methodology in addressing climate change should be upscaled because it’s an inclusive tool for all the community members.