Climate change is not good news in a region that has been dependent on food aid for the last four decades.
However, the Karamajong of northeast Uganda are determined to overcome the obstacles that have restricted the development of their semi-arid land.
Standing by the million-plus inhabitants of Karamoja in that aim is the NGO Mercy Uganda which offers practical support and a message of God’s salvation.
With access to this needy region restricted by geography and poor infrastructure, MAF is a crucial partner for Mercy Uganda.
Nomadic warriors, like their neighbours the Masai, the Karamajong have a limited background in agriculture; one in five of the population died in a 1980 famine, an event that would be within living memory were life expectancy higher.
Now, as water resources become scarcer in a warming world, the need for food security has become greater.
Mercy Uganda is addressing this concern and has dug wells in the particularly vulnerable communities of Kokorio and Kayapas.
These have been coupled with efforts to enhance local people’s skills in handling livestock and farming techniques.
In addition, Mercy Uganda is focusing on the health of women and children, running a pregnancy care centre and operating a child sponsorship programme to further two dozen local youngsters’ access to education.
These initiatives are combined with training in microbusiness enterprises such as sewing, which has helped 25 ladies generate vitally-needed income. With such practical support come opportunities to show the Jesus film and run Bible studies in communities.
Much of this work is dependent upon the support of short-term workers who arrive from overseas.
'MAF has made such a difference in the work we are able to do in Karamoja,' explains Laura Knetzer, Mercy Uganda’s Executive Director.
'We are able to get an entire team on the plane, and get there in just a small amount of time. This has been a true blessing to us as we try to maximize our energy, resources and time on the ground,'
This benefit was practically proved just recently, in a powerful demonstration of the difference MAF can make to smaller NGOs that are bringing in short-term expertise.
'On our trip to Karamoja this past August,' continues Laura, 'we had a few of the team members drive, while the rest of us flew.
'Those who flew MAF were there and ready to work by ten or so in the morning. The ones who drove ended up taking over 28 hours to arrive due to road conditions and a breakdown of the car. This prevented some of the work from being done that had been planned.'
Those 'road conditions' on the 300 mile journey from Kampala, the capital, can be unrelenting.
In the rainy season, routes become impassable as the flood waters leave behind a quagmire that only the foolhardy would attempt to drive through. A turn in the weather conditions can offer no respite however, as extreme dust makes it a challenge to see furniture-sized potholes.
With MAF flights making it possible to overcome such obstacles, Mercy Uganda workers can focus on the tasks God has called them to.
'In the three years we have been in Karamoja, we have seen tremendous growth and change – people who are seeing the importance of an education for their children, people who are learning skills to earn an income for themselves and a people who are learning to be a community,' Laura reports.
Maureen and Moses
Maureen and Moses are two of many children who have benefitted from the skills of Mercy Uganda’s team and their desire to make a difference.
Maureen’s life resulted from her mother being raped and the man her mother eventually married rejected this illegitimate child.
In response, Mercy Uganda arranged sponsorship for Maureen to attend boarding school, where she is now thriving.
A teenage orphan, Moses dropped out of school when a large tumour developed on his ear.
Mercy Uganda provided the funds to have the growth removed, enabling Moses to return to continue his education and work towards a brighter future.
'God has been, and continues to do, amazing things in and through the work of Mercy Uganda in Karamoja,' states Laura.
'The ability to partner with MAF has saved us valuable ministry money and ministry time, making the work we do more effective and productive.
'It’s also easier to recruit new team members to help us in the work. We could not have accomplished what we have without the partnership of MAF and we are thankful for you…
'Every pilot we have ever had has been amazing and has shown faith in God and love for Him. We love the prayers before we take off.
'MAF’s ministry to a young non-profit like Mercy Uganda is such a gift to us, and therefore to the people to whom we minister to in Karamoja. Thank you so much!'