Pastoralism which is extensive livestock production in the rangelands and is practiced in some parts of Uganda as a response to the unique ecological challenges in the area. In the Karamoja sub-region, the ways in which the community members have responded to those challenges have much in common, and equally, create some common challenges in terms of strengthening governance of tenure. The culture of the pastoralists is inseparable from their herding strategies and is central to the way they govern their natural resources.

The Benefits of effective governance and secure tenure, secure and flexible access to land and resources is crucial for the economic, social and environmental benefits from rangelands managed by pastoralists. The Karamojong pastoralists, for example, have rich knowledge of the use and value of different tree species, reflecting the high importance of trees in the pastoral economy and culture. The societies, therefore, have regulations over the harvesting of trees with strict prohibitions against the felling of some species hence helping to conserve the environment.

It’s also a common practice for the Karamojong pastoralists to keep a variety of livestock species to harness a wider range of resources: for example, combining cattle or sheep for pastures with camels or goats for shrublands. This combination allows the pastoralists to use a wider range of ecological niches and also buffers production against uncertainty.

Governance of water resources in the Karamojong sub-region, construction, and maintenance of surface catchments are usually undertaken cooperatively by the pastoralists. Use of these resources is carefully monitored and managed to minimize overuse and damage.

Mobile pastoralism practiced in the Karamojong sub-region is also highly suited to the management of rangelands and provides both economic and environmental benefits. Mobility contributes to ensuring access to fodder, water supplies, and shelter, to avoiding external problems like drought, disease, and conflict, and to sell products in volatile markets.

Pastoral management of land and water Fodder and water are the most significant resources for pastoral livestock management, but a wide range of other assets are also used and claimed by pastoralists. The effective governance and secure tenure secure and flexible access to land and resources is therefore crucial for the economic, social and environmental benefits from rangelands managed by pastoralists in the Karamoja sub-region.

The governance problem in the Karamoja pastoral  area

During the colonial area in Uganda, the new colonial administrative systems that were set up in the  Karamoja sub-region interfered with the traditional governance system of the pastoralists that lived in this area. This was the period when pastoralism was first discouraged in Uganda through orders of the administrators and their agents. Pastoralism was perceived to be archaic and backward. The colonial administrators regarded pastoralism as a way of life that made it difficult to have control over the communities in areas where it was practiced. The post-colonial governments adopted a similar mindset and systems. As a result, there was a breakdown of traditional governance structures and institutions that used to enforce compliance with norms and values that dictate the sustainable use of the drylands. The pastoralists’ role of acting as repositories for traditional knowledge which maximizes returns from the drylands was greatly diminished. The current Emphasis on formal governance structures has weakened traditional pastoral institutions in Karamoja sub-region and reduced their capacity to help manage crises like epidemics and drought. The Ugandan government still sees pastoralism as backward and favors crop production on pastoral lands, enacting policies to acquire the necessary land. This approach is also entwined with the vested interests of political elites and is also influenced by ideological policy reforms or by ethnic differences.

In a nutshell, the Governance challenge in the Karamoja sub-region is characterized   by problems of weak legitimacy of decisions that undermine livelihoods, rights and well-being ,weak mediation and negotiation and inability to make legitimate tradeoffs, inadequate participation, including weak representation, inability of pastoralists to influence decision-making ,disregard and lack of understanding of pastoral governance system  including knowledge.

KDF role in improving governance in pastoral areas

At KDF, we believe that the social, economic and political processes in pastoral communities or the wider society can have repercussions for the relationship between people and land while affecting the way customary tenure systems operate. KDF, therefore, has a strategic goal to increase the participation of local communities in governance systems in Karamoja. To achieve this goal, the following strategies are being deployed:

  • KDF is involved in strengthening pastoral governance structures/systems through learning by leveraging learning from within and externally. KDF acknowledges that there are opportunities to learn from other pastoralists and communities that have overcome similar challenges that Karamoja faces.
  • KDF recognizes that organized groups and associations can advocate better for their rights, can effectively protect and responsibly use their resources than when it is done at individual and community levels. Community organizing makes it easy for these linkages to be built.
  • KDF employs research, documents and disseminates analytical information clearly highlighting the links between effective leadership, governance and land, pastoralism, resource allocation, and service delivery.
  • All our efforts in promoting effective governance in Karamoja is guided by our firm belief in the efficacy of participation and inclusion in successful development work.

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