Introduction: The occurrence of landslides and floods in East Africa has increased over the past decades with enormous Public Health implications and massive alterations in the lives of those affected. In Uganda, the Elgon region is reported to have the highest occurrence of landslides and floods making this area vulnerable. This study aimed at understanding both coping strategies and the underlying causes of vulnerability to landslides and floods in the Mt. Elgon region.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative study in three districts of Bududa, Manafwa and Butalejja in the Mt. Elgon region in eastern Uganda. Six Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and eight Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were conducted. We used trained research assistants (moderator and note taker) to collect data. All discussions were audio taped, and were transcribed verbatim before analysis. We explored both coping strategies and underlying causes of vulnerability. Data were analysed using latent content analysis; through identifying codes from which basis categories were generated and grouped into themes.
Results: The positive coping strategies used to deal with landslides and floods included adoption of good farming methods, support from government and other partners, livelihood diversification and using indigenous knowledge in weather forecasting and preparedness. Relocation was identified as unsustainable because people often returned back to high risk areas. The key underlying causes of vulnerability were; poverty, population pressure making people move to high risk areas, unsatisfactory knowledge on disaster preparedness and, cultural beliefs affecting people’s ability to cope.
Conclusion: This study revealed that deep rooted links to poverty, culture and unsatisfactory knowledge on disaster preparedness were responsible for failure to overcome the effects to landslides and floods in disaster prone communities of Uganda. However, good farming practices and support from the government and implementation partners were shown to be effective in enabling the community to lessen the negative effects disasters. This calls for high impact innovative interventions focused in addressing these underlying causes as well as involvement of all stakeholders in scaling the effective coping strategies in order to build resilience in this community and other similarly affected areas.
Key words: Coping, Underlying causes, Floods, Landslides, Mt. Elgon, Uganda