Surrounding the lopsided, mangled dirt road was a verdant landscape of densely packed farmland. Maize filled one line of sight before giving way to plantain trees, which in turn were followed by beans, or sweet potatoes, and the occasional wetland with overgrown grass. The long visible stretch to the horizon though pointed out the relative absence of trees to interrupt the view. The driver, while navigating cavernous potholes, lamented the dramatic changes over the years. In his youth he said the area was completely forest, but few traces of that original state remain.
The rapid population and economic growth of Uganda, in addition to fertile soil, has driven demand for both timber and farmland. In my meetings with borrowers climate change emerged as a prevalent challenge for their businesses, with the majority attributing the cause to deforestation.
Vian, the client we were meeting for this trek, is a 28 year old father of 3 who has been selling maize for 13 years. He recalls both overall trends and specific events when citing climate change as his biggest challenge. Historically predictable rainy and dry seasons have become tougher to forecast and Vian states that “after planting you expect some weather but then it cannot be predicted.” A variation in timing and duration of seasons affects harvest, prices, and success for anyone involved in agriculture which is a majority of the population. Specific events such as a fluke hailstorm that Vian recalls from this season can also destroy an entire season’s work. With so many farmers living from harvest to harvest whether they’re paying school fees, building a home, repaying loans, or just on subsistence, one bad season can have dire consequences.
For Ugandan borrowers and farmers, climate change and unpredictable weather is a real and growing threat. However, loans can allow people like Vian to better prepare for unpredictable seasons and smooth over the hardships that accompany poor harvests as a result of bad weather. To make a loan, visit kiva.org and search for Hofokam today!
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Usually the first (and only) to laugh at his own jokes, Matt values the power of humor and extroversion in connecting with people. He became interested in microfinance following a year in Malawi where he saw the ability for small business investments to have far reaching, positive effects and is excited to join this cause as a Kiva Fellow in Uganda. A Texas native, Matt’s first international experience came when he lived in Mexico City during elementary school. He graduated from NYU with a Psychology degree and Pre-Business minor before joining PepsiCo where he held roles in finance, strategy, and marketing. Looking to live abroad and work on a cause he was passionate about, Matt took a yearlong sabbatical to volunteer with Grassroot Soccer in Malawi where he helped implement HIV educational programs and community HIV testing events. He then co-founded Teen Support Line, a free phone counseling service for adolescents living with HIV in Malawi. Matt loves to travel and engage with new cultures and has spent time in Spain, Latin America, and southern Africa. Outside of work, he enjoys writing, soccer, and incessant movie/television quoting.