Integrating climate in Ugandan health and subsistence food systems: where diverse knowledges meet

Bianca van Bavel*, Lea Berrang Ford, Rebecca King, Shuaib Lwasa, Didacus Namanya, Sabastian Twesigomwe, Helen Elsey, Sherilee L. Harper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: The effects of food insecurity linked to climate change will be exacerbated in subsistence communities that are dependent upon food systems for their livelihoods and sustenance. Place-and community-based forms of surveillance are important for growing an equitable evidence base that integrates climate, food, and health information as well as informs our understanding of how climate change impacts health through local and Indigenous subsistence food systems. Methods: We present a case-study from southwestern Uganda with Batwa and Bakiga subsistence communities in Kanungu District. We conducted 22 key informant interviews to map what forms of monitoring and knowledge exist about health and subsistence food systems as they relate to seasonal variability. A participatory mapping exercise accompanied key informant interviews to identify who holds knowledge about health and subsistence food systems. Social network theory and analysis methods were used to explore how information flows between knowledge holders as well as the power and agency that is involved in knowledge production and exchange processes. Results: This research maps existing networks of trusted relationships that are already used for integrating diverse knowledges, information, and administrative action. Narratives reveal inventories of ongoing and repeated cycles of observations, interpretations, evaluations, and adjustments that make up existing health and subsistence food monitoring and response. These networks of local health and subsistence food systems were not supported by distinct systems of climate and meteorological information. Our findings demonstrate how integrating surveillance systems is not just about what types of information we monitor, but also who and how knowledges are connected through existing networks of monitoring and response. Conclusion: Applying conventional approaches to surveillance, without deliberate consideration of the broader contextual and relational processes, can lead to the re-marginalization of peoples and the reproduction of inequalities in power between groups of people. We anticipate that our findings can be used to inform the initiation of a place-based integrated climate-food-health surveillance system in Kanungu District as well as other contexts with a rich diversity of knowledges and existing forms of monitoring and response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1864
Number of pages19
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by a PhD Scholarship from the University of Leeds, Priestley International Centre for Climate. This research is also connected to a larger project on Indigenous Health and Adaptation to Climate (IHACC) with field study sites in Uganda, Peru, and Canada. Financial support for that project is provided by the International Development Research Centre, Tri-Council Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change, IHACC, IDRC File nos. 106372–003, 004, 005. The funding sources had no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to submit for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


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