INFORMATION SHARING IS KEY FOR PASTORALISTS IN KARAMOJA
Karamoja hosts about 20% of Uganda`s cows (2,253,960), 16.3% of goats, 49.4% of sheep and all camels, at least as of Livestock Census report 2009. These livestock support 80% of Karimojong households and feed urban centers in
and around the region. During cattle market days, these livestock is sold and transported to markets in Juba, South Sudan through Lira, Soroti. They also go to Kenya through Kitale.
In Karamoja, drought described by technocrats as climate change has influenced a way of life that leads to mobility of livestock in search for water, grass and pest/disease free environments. Karimojong pastoralists also migrate due to insecurity and search for fresh environments as well as salt leaks.
Iiko, a pastoralist in Lorukumo village of Rupa Sub county north of Moroto says
“cows are always on the move, their legs are tied with shoes all year round.“ When subjected to environmental pressures, “cows can move alone, cows can smell water miles away. Cows can reject non-nutritious grass, cows will look for salt leaks.”
During drought, crops are hardly hit. Agro-pastoralist groups get exposed to famine and consequent malnutrition. Iiko says
“three things are key in our life. Humans, crops (sorghum) and animals. In tough times, animals (cows) are more resilient. “We move with animals for distances. Parts of our herds can be affected. Bulls and some cows will survive. These will support our families. We sell bulls to buy cereals.”
The harsh climatic conditions prevailing in Karamoja region create high levels of herd mobility and extensive use of rangelands so as to tackle temporal and spatial variations in resource availability. During search times, the region is plunged into an activity of common resource use and movement as an adaptation. This means the pastoralist groups must communicate among themselves on how to go about, so as to together survive the tough times.
The kind of information shared, and how it is shared depends on the need. Iiko says,
“We communicate regularly through courtesy visits to kraals and villages. We share information about our lives, drought, and health of animals, migration water and grass as well as security. When this is necessary, we send emissaries to neighbors so that we can convene a meeting (ekokwa). Here heads of kraals or villages convene a meeting to deliberate on matters arising. A decision is arrived at and taken. If it is a disease, we gazette a particular affected kraal and assign to it grazing grounds and water points. If it is drought, we explore new grazing areas.”
This is the kind of information sharing Karamoja Development Forum (KDF) is strengthening. KDF integrates a technological aspect of mobile phones and other hi tech methods likes recording of information through audio and video for sharing among pastoralist groups in Karamoja.
In Lorukumo Village of Rupa Sub County, Iiko, one of the herders invited KDF to visit his cattle treatment facility. Iiko had been trained to rid off pests and treat his animals by some Americans years back. Iiko acquired a pump and skills to manage the cattle treatment facility.
During this visit, KDF took the opportunity to share the Pastoralist Information Center (PIC) idea and also share video information from other pastoralist groups around the Karamoja region.