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Tegemeo's Trip to Karamoja Region of Eastern Uganda

Pastoral communities are infamous for conflict over resources such as water and pasture, especially during drought or famine. In Kenya, pastoral communities have clashed with other pastoral communities as well as with farming communities. Allocating land rights is complicated by mobility, a practice among pastoral communities that enhances sustainable pastoralism. Recently, the establishment of temporary rights, especially along migratory corridors has been muted although quite difficult in practice.

Karamoja region is well known for pastoralism. The corridor also referred to as the cattle corridor, is an expansive region in eastern Uganda that allow communities to move from one area in search of pasture and water. In addition to local communities in Uganda, the region also hosts migrating communities from Kenya and South Sudan. Until the mid-2000s, such migration always resulted in conflict over pasture and water. However, in recent times the conflict incidences have dropped sharply.

To understand the migratory corridor arrangement between communities, and how this contributes to enabling sustainable land tenure and pastoralist practice systems, we visited Kaabong District in North East Region of Uganda. The visit was a follow-up to an ongoing study focusing on land tenure in pastoralist societies. Our objective on this study tour was to learn about resource sharing among the pastoral community which is critical for the transboundary migration.

Dodoth Agro-Pastoralist Development Organisation (DADO) participated in the learning alliance and study tour for the Evidence and Lessons from Latin America (ELLA)program. The organisation also won an award to help communities put the lessons learnt from the program into action.

The program, which is a collaborative study to enhance south-south learning, began in 2015 with research work conducted by Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development of Egerton University in the East African Savannah and GRADE (Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo) in the Latin America region of Peru.

Ongoing research indicates that pastoralists across the globe face similar circumstances that shape their way of life -- at times benefiting them while at others impeding their rapid development and livelihood improvement. During our interaction with the Karamoja, we could not help but notice the benefits resource sharing has bestowed amongst this community and its neighbours. We acknowledge this would not have been possible without peace in the region. The major reason for the peaceful coexistence was a successful disarmament exercise conducted by the Ugandan government. Communities from Kenya and South Sudan are not allowed to carry firearms into Uganda. Also, the UPDF provides security for pastoralists in the region. Secondly, besides a renewed understanding and willingness to foster peace, the Karamoja community has also adopted new systems of life. Traditional land management practices are still taking place, where land ownership is based on clans. Of note is that nomadism is no longer practised as a way of life, but rather various clan members have settled in manyattas in designated areas where they reside and only move out to herd their livestock and then return to their homes. Pasture and water are however accessible to all since no boundaries are elected thus enabling free sharing of resources. This also makes it beneficial for the neighbouring communities such as the Turkana of Kenya who migrate across the border and can still access the same resources.

However, these cases of transborder migration come with some challenges. The Karamoja view all pastoralists as one and hence allow free access to their resources on condition that peace is maintained and cases of the non-existent cattle rustling do not recur. To deter livestock theft in the Karamoja region, authorities and communities have put in stringent measures to deter livestock theft with a punitive fine of two times the total number of cattle stolen plus one for the peace committee. However, the Kenyan counterparts may not have a commitment to it since it is not instituted in their community. This leaves the Karamoja in fear of what would happen if such an eventuality happened, given that they can also not defend themselves with guns as was the case before. There is also a concern for the health of animals migrating into their land mainly because the Karamoja have a system of governance within Uganda that also provides for veterinary services while the Turkana community of Kenya whom we also interacted with during our tour indicated otherwise.

The Ugandan government has put in place systems to ensure the pastoral way of life of their citizens is sustainably maintained. Initiatives such as promotionn of peaceful coexistence, introduction of heavy penalties for livestock theft, establishment of common market places, training of locals to act as livestock veterinary doctors, creating channels of leadership at the grassroots and introduction of farming as alternative source of livelihood among others. The Kenyan government has also made visits to the Turkana Community to access their plight and has promised to put in measures that will improve their way of life but the pastoralists we encountered indicated that no long term interventions have been put in place yet.

 The migration, however, is beneficial since it provides a basis for livestock trade amongst the two communities while also enabling for cross breeding of the livestock to produce better breeds.

Our three-day visit was made possible by the DADO Executive Director Simon Lomoe, the Programme Officer Mr Lokiru Denis, and our very gifted tour facilitator Mr Pius Loupa who has also been a key contributor in the ELLA forum. 

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