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The Glaciers and the Bible-Quoting Farmer

Viterbo, Italy – “I am peasant farmer,” says Mbiwo Constantine Kusebahasa, as he introduced himself to me. He had traveled from his farm at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains in Kasese, western Uganda. It is the first time that this 71 year old farmer traveled outside of Uganda and flew on a plane. He had come to Italy to bear witness on how how climate change has affected him.

When he was growing up, he and other people of the Bakonjo tribe could see the glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountains. This range has the highest peaks in Uganda and his tribe was dependent on its forests and the glaciers. In 1906, it had 650 hectares of glaciers; five years ago, there were only 105 hectares.

The Bakonjo, the “people of the snow,” are living the effects of the vanishing glaciers and the deforestation. “There is drought and there is malaria now,” said Constantine. “Years ago, we had no famine then and the rains were regular and predictable.”

Production of maize and beans in his 14-acre farm has dropped. He decided to plant coffee now, in part to help reforest the areas around the Rwenzori mountains. He used to plant twice a year, but now, he can only plant once a year, “Now we are planting in September, hoping that the rains would come and our crops would flourish.”

Constantine advocates for the need to not only adapt to climate change, but to also try and stop further environmental destruction. He warns, quoting from Ezekiel 8:6, that we may yet see more devastating impacts of climate change.

Adlai Amor is director of communications at Bread for the World. He met Mbiwo Constantine Kusebahasa at the GreenAccord International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, Viterbo, Italy, Nov. 25-29, 2009.


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