District Specific - Kaabong
- Published on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 08:03
Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) support to pastoralism in Karamoja has dwindled in recent years, with many government programs and NGOs increasing their support for crop production. The trend looks like support for crop production is being increased at the expense of support for animal production.
Alleged reference to pastoralism as a ‘social ill’, that must be ‘fought like we fight others’ by Uganda’s leaders expose unconcealed plans to deny the Karimojong their way of life. Clandestine land deals, talk of investors amassing large tracts of pastoral land in Karamoja lend credence to these allegations.
Karimojong pastoralists are receiving less support from Government. When the Foot and Mouth Disease struck Nakapiripirit District in February 2011, the only government intervention was in form of a quarantine enforced by the Ministry of Agriculture. The spread of the disease reached endemic levels. Natural relief from the disease came eight months later, eventually leading to the opening of the cattle markets.
Despite the crucial contribution of nomadic and transhumant pastoralism to livelihoods and to Uganda’s economy, its role in preserving the environment, the Karimojong are not receiving the necessary attention and support and their economic activity is a basis of social exclusion.
Over time, the people of Karamoja, like other (agro-) pastoralists have developed specialized livestock raising strategies, combined with extensive and opportunistic cropping, to allow the productive use of extensive seasonal rangelands in arid and semi-arid lands: these systems have allowed them to make a sensible and sustainable use of the natural resources of the area, without degrading the fragile environment which characterizes arid and semi-arid lands.
Mobility is an essential feature of pastoralism: it allows the pastoralists to continuously track the best grazing area and water sources, throughout the year, without depleting these resources. The major reason for mobility is to maximize livestock productivity from a fragile and limited resource base in the context of erratic and unreliable rainfall patterns. It provides livestock with a diversified diet and limits the build-up of pests and diseases. Mobility also allows pastoralists to bring the livestock closer to the market and the consumer.
The ongoing infamous digitalization of animal tracking in Karamoja is one such poorly implemented project feared by most pastoralists as a means to further sedentarize them. Spearheaded by the Office of the Prime Minister, the necessary sensitization of communities and pastoralists who are the key stakeholders has not taken place, leading to poor support of the project by the local community.
Many government programs in Karamoja like Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAFII), Karamoja Livelihoods Project (KALIP), the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) among others in addition to activities of tens of NGOs are geared towards supporting crop production.
Whereas crop production can also work in Karamoja, it is important to realize that nomadic and pastoral ways of life are more adaptive to the region and nomads generally live in balance with nature, an important aspect in environmental protection.
We implore government and other stakeholders to direct more support at supporting pastoralists in Karamoja, including correcting urgently policies and plans favoring only sedentary populations with the full participation of the Karimojong.