‘As a refugee, I have seen the impacts of the climate crisis up close’

November 9, 2022    By admin   

‘As a refugee, I have seen the impacts of the climate crisis up close’

Opira Bosco Okot, 26, is a South Sudanese refugee in his final year at university in Kampala. He and his family have felt the impacts of the climate crisis in Uganda and at home. Now, he is working with other young people to take action.

In 2017, I ran and walked barefoot for days to flee the conflict in South Sudan. When I arrived at the Ugandan border, I was registered at Palabek Refugee Settlement and allocated a 30-square-metre plot of land on which to build a temporary structure and have some space to farm and rebuild my life. 

I started collecting firewood for cooking and cutting trees to build a shelter. The land allotted to me was fertile, forested and bushy; the natural resources were plentiful, and I was easily able to grow sufficient crops, and collect enough firewood for cooking.

But three years later, the rains had become unreliable, crop yields had reduced, and building materials were scarce. The beauty of the area had disappeared, and productive land was increasingly scarce. As drought took hold, competition between refugees and the local host community over increasingly scarce natural resources grew, as well as the perception that refugees were favoured for assistance. The relationship between the two communities began to break down. 

One day, while I was in the bush collecting building materials, I was chased by four men and I had to run, leaving behind everything I had collected.