Uganda – Coping Strategies for Landslide and Flood Disasters in Mount Elgon Region

A report by the Public Library of Science on the underlying causes of vulnerability to landslides and floods in the Mount Elgon region of Uganda was published last week.

The Elgon region is reported to have one of the highest occurrence of landslides and floods in the country.

The study revealed that deep rooted links to poverty, deforestation and poor local knowledge on disaster preparedness were responsible for failure to overcome the effects to landslides and floods in disaster prone communities.

Poor communities have insufficient capacity by to prepare and cope with disasters, thus increasing their vulnerability. Low income communities have been shown to suffer the highest risk of disasters because they have a lack of access to critical infrastructure and services and live in poor quality housing and in informal settlements that are prone to floods and landslides.

The study identified practices like deforestation and over cultivation as a result of increasing population pressure to have greatly contributed to landslides and floods. Deforestation and excavation of slopes for house construction has been reported to reduce the stability of soils in mountainous areas making it prone to mudslides.

The study also revealed unsatisfactory knowledge on disaster preparedness and mitigation to be one of the factors increasing vulnerability to landslides.

However, the report did reveal some positive coping strategies used to deal with landslides and floods, such as good farming practices, support from government and other partners, livelihood diversification and using indigenous knowledge in weather forecasting and preparedness.

Good farming practices employed by farmers to reduce the impact of landslides and floods in the Elgon region included soil conservation practices and diversification with tree planting, contour farming, and terracing. These practices have been reported to be fairly effective in lessening the effects of shallow landslides and run off from floods.

The government of Uganda together with humanitarian agencies have been taking action to reduce the effects of disasters. Some of the activities carried out included early warning and training activities designed to enhance preparedness.

Recently the Government of Uganda has shifted its paradigm from response orientated to preparedness and mitigation as one of the effective strategies in overcoming the increasing negative effects of hazards that accompany population growth, development and climate change.

In November 2015, communities in Teso, Eastern Region, benefited from Forecast-based financing (FBF), a system whereby humanitarian funding is released based on forecast information. The funding is used for planned activities which reduce risks, enhance preparedness and response, and make disaster risk management overall more effective.

To prevent waterborne diseases such as dysentery brought on by floods in Teso in November 2015, the Red Cross distributed preparedness items to households in flood-prone villages.

This was the first time in the history of the International Red Cross that pre-disaster humanitarian action was taken based on a a scientific forecast of flood risk. The forecast, which was based on the JRC’s Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), proved to be correct as the area was subsequently flooded following heavy rainfall.

See the full research article “Coping Strategies for Landslide and Flood Disasters: A Qualitative Study of Mt. Elgon Region, Uganda” here.