Tim McDonnell

Multimedia environmental journalist

NPR: Here's What Climate Change Looks Like To Uganda's Coffee Farmers

What smallholder farmers saw when they were equipped with disposable cameras.

Portrait by Beatrice Nambozo

Portrait by Beatrice Nambozo

This story first appeared on National Public Radio.

If you've ever bought coffee labeled "Uganda" and wondered what life is like in that faraway place where the beans were grown, now's your chance to see how climate change has affected the lives of Ugandan coffee farmers — through their own eyes.

Rising temperatures and prolonged drought can make coffee trees less productive and increase their exposure to pests and diseases. This is especially a problem in Uganda, where nearly all of the coffee is produced by small farmers who have little access to irrigation or other modern farming conveniences. Coffee is by far the country's most valuable industry: It accounts for one-fifth of export revenue, and about 1 in 5 Ugandans rely on it for part or all of their income.

Yet climate change could slash the country's coffee production in half by 2050 —a loss worth $1.2 billion, according to a 2015 economic analysis commissioned by the Ugandan government.

Because Uganda is a relatively small player in the global coffee market, disruptions there won't necessarily affect the price of your morning joe in the U.S. But within the country, a disturbing new reality is taking root. To find out exactly how Uganda's coffee farmers view their experience of climate change, I recently equipped a dozen of them with disposable cameras.

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