Years before Ugandan farmer Constance Okollet knew what climate change was, she was experiencing its effects, making her traditional agricultural practices increasingly untenable in the face of drought, unpredictable rain and floods. It wasn’t until she was invited to an Oxfam meeting in Kampala that she learned there was a scientific reason behind the aggressive new conditions.
As much as this was a revelation to Okollet, so too was she to Oxfam, which began asking her to share her experiences at international events. And so she began splitting her time between two worlds: with the thousands of rural women involved in the Osukuru United Women’s Network she chairs, educating them on health, nutrition and well-adapted agricultural practices, and as a representative of their struggles in the global climate change arena.
Now a ubiquitous but soft-spoken face of the challenges of African women farmers, Okollet is the epitome of gentle power, her stories about life in the face of climate change endlessly moving.
“When we started the organization, we didn’t know what climate change was,” she says. “Many people were saying it was God. This is God. But we said no. If it is God, let us do something to prevent what is happening. Let us stand up and begin. I begin, you begin, everybody comes in, and then we can change the world to be a better place to live in.”