Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

D. Layne Coppock


D. Layne Coppock


Claudia Radel


Roger Kjelgren


Climate change in the East African country of Uganda is causing severe variations in the once predictable seasonal weather patterns that farmers had come to depend on. This, in combination with social and economic challenges, has significantly increased the vulnerability of farmers who make up the majority of Uganda’s population. Previous knowledge and observations suggest that Ugandan farmers may be reluctant or slow to change their practices in response to the changing climate. Strategies are therefore needed to identify challenges and sustainable solutions. This research used qualitative data collection methods known as participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and participatory action research (PAR) over a seven-month period with two communities in western Uganda. One community was located in an urban area while the other was rural. Research methods were used to first identify real challenges specific to the community before developing strategies to solve them. Both of these steps were conducted in a bottom-up community-based way, utilizing the expertise of community participants. Overall, the main problems identified included degraded water resources, poor farm performance, gender issues, and health challenges. Most of these problems were not directly a result of climate change, but rather a combination of social and economic challenges like poverty and a lack of support from the government and other organizations. In both communities, sustainable solutions to major problems were created by increasing the overall knowledge, expertise, and cooperation among community participants in addition to improving access to local services. The actions taken resulted in a pilot project that improved water resources for the rural community. The approach was effective because it allowed the communities to advocate for themselves to create lasting change. This research builds upon a rapidly growing body of literature on the effectiveness of community-based efforts to solve real-life problems in struggling communities. Furthermore, these findings also challenge more traditional donor-driven approaches to development.