With all the upheavals in Libya and Syria, and polarizing budget battles here at home, it might be easy to miss a little story coming out of East Africa: the food riots that have rocked the country of Uganda. We’ve been thinking about bigger things.
But that could be a big mistake.
Amnesty International has decried “the excessive use of force,” and the government is coming under intense pressure at home and abroad.
|29% spike in food costs have sparked angry protests|
But in the last year alone, Ugandan food costs have increased by a whopping 29.1%, according to the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics. And the reason for the run up in prices? “A prolonged dry season in most parts of the country,” the statistics office said.
From our perspective, it’s more complex than that, involving global forces driven by ethanol subsidies in the U.S. and changing climatic conditions worldwide. But on the ground in Uganda, they see crop failures and declining yields from local droughts.
Back here in the U.S., our politicians don’t seem to be worried. But for years, Ugandan leaders have been telling an alarming story. “Climate change,” warned a 2007 Ugandan government report “puts additional pressure on the world food supply system. Uganda’s agriculture is subsistent, rain-fed and, therefore, vulnerable to climate change. Erratic rain seasons have been observed in the past few years. Prolonged droughts can have serious impacts on agricultural production.” And among the consequences they warned of are exactly what we’re seeing in Uganda today: economic and political instability, leading to the decline of governing institutions.
The study, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” explains how climate change acts as a threat multiplier in already fragile regions, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states — the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.
|Violent clampdown: Ugandan army used live amunition|
And why do our military leaders care about the prospects of failed states in Africa? Air Force General Chuck Wald put it this way: "We import more oil from Africa than the Middle East - probably a shock to a lot of people - and that share will grow... we'll be drawn into the politics of Africa, to a much greater extent.” Anyone watching Libya today can see how prescient he was four years ago.
|Sharp increase in droughts in Uganda|
Back on the ground in Uganda, the country’s 33.4 million people – many of them living in extreme poverty – are struggling with 29% food cost inflation, which translates directly into chronic hunger, malnutrition, disease, and now – political instability and violence. They don’t know about the American generals’ predictions of increased terrorism and resource conflicts.
And, they don’t know that many politicians in the world’s largest economy are doing everything they can to prevent action to address the environmental degradation at the root of their problem.
They just know that it’s going to be much harder to feed the children tomorrow than it was last Easter.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.
J. ElwoodFollow @John_Elwood