A few days ago, a distant relative invited me to our ancestral village in Pallisa district right on the shores of the Lake Kyoga. Our little village is known as Gogonyo Opeta. We arrived late in the evening, about seven pm, just as the last rays of the sun disappeared over the horizon. The place hasn’t changed much over the years. The palm trees that were planted before the birth of my father are still standing to date. The village itself is quiet and nothing much happens here. Evenings are reserved for family time and bonding. The residents don’t do much besides drink cheap alcohol and tend to their gardens.
You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that civilization has not reached my village as yet. the nearest trading center is over a kilometer away. music is seldom listened to here. People just don’t have the time for it I guess. In the good old days, fishing was the main activity here. the fish was purely for home consumption. Very little of it was sold or traded in the nearby markets. The one memory that stuck with me from my early childhood was the prevalence of mosquitoes in the area. Regardless of the time of day or night, mosquitoes were an ever-present factor in your life. We had gotten used to this and accepted it as one of the realities of our simple village life.
I was shocked this time round when I noticed that late as it was, there were no mosquitoes buzzing around my ears. Wait. How was this possible? i had to find out why the one thing that made life unbearable was suddenly missing from the equation. I had initially attributed it to the government’s efforts to eliminate malaria through the residual spraying and what not. But knowing this government and it’s priorities, I knew there must be something more sinister abound.
I sought out one uncle and posed the question to him, “Why are there no more mosquitoes around the village?” He sat me down and told the story of our generation. Climate Change! The world has changed. The problems of the West have been transferred to Africa and other underdeveloped countries. The area around the lake Kyoga has been degraded. The population no longer practices safe agricultural practices. water levels have dropped and the lake has receded by over a kilometer. He told me that the mosquitoes had receded along with the lake, and that our home that previously lay on the shores of the lake now stands over two kilometers away. The lake shores have been steadily receding over a meter per year.
He then asked me,”You are a water resources engineer. What can you do to reverse this trend and rectify the current situation?” I must say I was totally out of my depth. Suggestions like crop rotation and afforestation seemed not to cut it. Why had I really studied this type of engineering? How would I help my community back home? The youth abandoned fishing and left it for companies and the old men who can’t be bothered to row so far into the lake in search of mature fish for sale. The youths prefer riding motorcycles and transportation of merchandise to and from town. Whom would I engage to ask for help?
The questions lingered on at the back of my mind as I boarded my brother’s little car for the journey back to town. Can one man really change the world? Do our little actions cause so much change? So many questions.