Karamojong man in a cattle kraal


WATER  is all that Karamoja needs, not food aid!

I have recently read through the media an opinion by Julian Barungi, a researcher with the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) indicating that water is all that Karamoja needs, not food aid.

Barungi, in her piece indicated that reports and government analysis show Karamoja as mineral rich and has the potential for growth to sustain itself through harnessing opportunities from the mining sector. She pointed out that, despite the glittering picture, Karamoja is the poorest region in Uganda arguing that Karamoja Food Security question cannot be solved using the same remedies of the last decades, reasoning that Karamoja has clearly developed resistance to food aid.

Barungi recommends water harvesting technologies and irrigation facilities which, in her opinion, would be an icing on the cake to improve Karamoja`s Food Security by increasing water availability for crop production. She concludes that, the usual disgraceful drought induced food shortages will be no more in Karamoja.

Through the Karamoja Development Forum’s (KDF) Facebook group, Barungi’s opinion drew diverse thoughts and attracted a discussion on alternative policies for Karamoja in the next decades and the future of the region. Others argued in defense of provision of water for crop growing, but pointed out that Karamoja can survive with its mineral endowment if harnessed equitably.

However, over decades of development policy initiatives in the Karamoja region, amidst recognition and knowledge that Karamoja is inhabited by Pastoralists and agro pastoralists, living and surviving with techniques suited to the climate of the region, no intervention has been clear and specific to harnessing Pastoralist livelihoods in the Karamoja region.

Karamoja holds about 20% of Uganda`s cows. These cows support about 80% of households in the region with beef, milk, blood hides and skins. These cows are also sold off at cattle markets in Kangole, Namalu, Naitakwae, Kanawat to provide alternative domestic household needs, support education, health care and social needs.

In periods of extreme drought, cows are more resilient to extreme conditions than crops.

“Bulls will survive, migrate to better areas and later used to buy sorghum from markets,” says one pastoralist from Rupa, Moroto.

Development Policies for Karamoja must therefore refocus! And reconsider utilizing and developing existing livelihoods suited to Karamoja; this involves developing the pastoralist sector through provision of water, health care, access to markets including market mapping and transport.

Over the recent past, government through development organizations has attempted, on a small scale, to develop and support the Pastoralist sector in Karamoja through livestock sector support programmes like provision of large water reservoirs such as Kobebe Dam, small scale dairy centers for collecting milk, and supporting local governments to construct cattle treatment centers and abattoirs.

However, extreme drought conditions dry up such dams and create a situation which demands migration of animals in search for water. This therefore calls for a concerted effort in water provision for livestock.

Therefore, if program initiatives and interventions in the Karamoja region are to improve food security, livestock-based livelihoods will have to remain, for now, the best economic mainstay of households in the region and provision of water is just, but one, important to Karamoja.

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