Seasonality, climate change, and food security during pregnancy among indigenous and non-indigenous women in rural Uganda: Implications for maternal-infant health

Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change Research Team, Julia M. Bryson*, Kaitlin Patterson*, Lea Berrang-Ford, Shuaib Lwasa, Didacus Namanya, Sabastian Twesigomwe, Charity Kesande, James Ford, Sherilee L. Harper*, Alejandro Llanos, Cesar Carcamo, Didacus Namanya, James Ford, Lea Berrang-Ford, Patricia Garcia, Victoria Edge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background Climate change is expected to decrease food security globally. Many Indigenous communities have heightened sensitivity to climate change and food insecurity for multifactorial reasons including close relationships with the local environment and socioeconomic inequities which increase exposures and challenge adaptation to climate change. Pregnant women have additional sensitivity to food insecurity, as antenatal undernutrition is linked with poor maternal-infant health. This study examined pathways through which climate change influenced food security during pregnancy among Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in rural Uganda. Specific objectives were to characterize: 1) sensitivities to climate-associated declines in food security for pregnant Indigenous women; 2) women's perceptions of climate impacts on food security during pregnancy; and 3) changes in food security and maternalinfant health over time, as observed by women. Methods Using a community-based research approach, we conducted eight focus group discussions - four in Indigenous Batwa communities and four in non-Indigenous communities - in Kanungu District, Uganda, on the subject of climate and food security during pregnancy. Thirty-six women with ≥1 pregnancy participated. Data were analysed using a constant comparative method and thematic analysis. Results Women indicated that food insecurity was common during pregnancy and had a bidirectional relationship with antenatal health issues. Food security was thought to be decreasing due to weather changes including extended droughts and unpredictable seasons harming agriculture. Women linked food insecurity with declines in maternal-infant health over time, despite improved antenatal healthcare. While all communities described food security struggles, the challenges Indigenous women identified and described were more severe. Conclusions Programs promoting women's adaptive capacity to climate change are required to improve food security for pregnant women and maternal-infant health. These interventions are particularly needed in Indigenous communities, which often face underlying health inequities. However, resiliency among mothers was strong and, with supports, they can reduce food security challenges in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0247198
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support was provided by a University of Guelph ( Summerlee travel scholarship awarded to JMB; a Frederick Banting Doctoral Graduate Scholarship (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, cihr-irsc., an International Development Research Centre ( doctoral research award, and a University of Guelph ( Summerlee research grant awarded to KP; and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (cihr-irsc. grant awarded to SLH, LBF, SL, DBN, JDF and the IHACC Research Team. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Bryson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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