Lopeikume Loware, 78, has been a pastoralist in Kotido, Karamoja in Uganda all his life. In his lifetime, Loware has seen the livelihood system in Kotido evolve. “I have seen our livelihood system change over the years,” he told us. “We have seen introduction of crops as a source of livelihood- that’s why we have a lot of sorghum on our land,” he revealed. But for Loware, pastoralism remains the most resilient livelihood system for communities in Karamoja. “Pastoralism is the backbone of our livelihood system,” he offered. “Because we can move with our livestock in search for water and pasture during drought, we have been able to sustain our livelihood,” he added. “Crops often fail when rains fail,” he concluded. Peter Logiro, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Kotido District also holds that “pastoralism is the reason communities in the area have been able to survive.” “While one can move with livestock in search for pasture and water during drought, one can’t move a garden in search for rain,” he added. “It is because of this adaptive mechanism that pastoralism remains the most sustainable livelihood system for communities in this area,” he concluded. But increased encroachment on pastoral range lands is shrinking grazing space, while new administrative boundaries that are restricting movement in search for water and pasture in the face of extreme and erratic climatic conditions are threatening adaptive capacity and very existence of pastoralism.
Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) has been supporting initiatives to promote and protect pastoral livelihood systems in Turkana in Kenya and in Karamoja in Uganda to contribute towards creating sustainable livelihood systems for pastoralists like Loware. Since 2014, OSIEA, under its food security program, has been partnering with Warrior Squad Foundation, Karamoja Development Forum and Friends of Lake Turkana to improve the livelihood systems of pastoral communities in Karamoja and Turkana. In particular, Warrior Squad Foundation has played a key role in enabling pastoral communities to migrate to access resources such as water and pasture and nurtured peaceful co-existence among pastoral communities. The Foundation has also supported the establishment of Pastoral Council of Elders– a community structure- that determines when, where and what period within the year the animals migrate and fosters good relationships with neighboring communities. The foundation has also supported the development of pastoral code of conduct, a great planning tool for pastoralists in migration and pastoral migratory routes and gazing map that define the migratory patterns of pastoralists and help to track the movement of pastoralists in search for pasture and water. “We have been working with the communities and local administration, through the office of the RDC to create an environment where the communities can practice their livelihood system,” revealed Milton Lopiria of Warrior Squad Foundation. At the same time, the Karamoja Development Forum has been leading efforts to engage the local government on pastoral livelihoods and providing platforms and forums where pastoralists can access information and articulate their issues and seek solutions from governments. On its part, the Friends of Lake Turkana has been working with the Turkana County government to have pastoral priorities and issues included in the county development agenda. This has been through providing data/evidence.
These efforts are bearing fruits. There is a positive outlook for pastoralism. The adaptive capacity of pastoralists like Loware is improving because of increased ability to move in search for water and pasture. This has been made possible by migratory structures as well as the good relations with neighboring communities. “Communities are now able to negotiate with their neighbors to access water and pasture for their livestock,” revealed Lopiria. “Because the code of conduct is clear, they know how to behave and how to engage with other communities,” he added. “They are able to convince their neighbors to allow them to access water and pasture.” At the same time, communities are adopting sustainable ways to use their resources: they reserve certain areas for pasture and water during dry spells. “We have reserved Kubebe dam in Moroto and the pasture for dry season starting January 2018,” revealed a community member. “This grass and water can take us until the wet season sets in in April 2018”, she added. “We decided to do this following the very bad drought that we experienced last year, where we lost a lot of livestock due to lack of water and pasture,” she added. In addition, issues affecting pastoralists are increasingly finding place within local and national government decision making structures, thanks to the efforts of the Pastoral Council of Elders that has been engaging the local authorities and articulating community issue for action. Security, which is critical for the movement of pastoralists to access water and pasture, has also improved because of the work of the Pastoral Council of Elders and security forces. Additionally, local authorities are increasingly responding to communities’ need for services including immunizing livestock and are articulating pastoral priorities, especially in Karamoja to the central government for action.
Simon Longoli of Karamoja Development Forum notes the positive trends in pastoralism and contends that “if this continues in the next five years, there will be more livestock in the region and food insecurity issues reduced to an all-time low.” “Part of the effort has been to develop livestock markets to increase income in the region for alternative uses like education or private development,” he added. “Overall, there is a positive outlook for pastoralism but there are also serious threats.”
Despite this progress, more still needs to be done to further develop pastoralism to move these communities towards sustainable livelihood. “Those who care about pastoralism must fight commercial actors that are parceling land, pushing pastoralists to the margins,” noted Logiro, the RDC, Kotido. “We need to rationalize land use in this area and determine the amount of land to put under crops and one for livestock- since livestock remains the backbone of the community’s livelihood system and economy, we must provide adequate range land,” he added. “In view of increasing climatic shocks, we must invest in developing pastoralism to increase production through investing in science and research to improve livestock breeds,” he noted. “If we squeeze pastoralism to the margins, we will reduce our probability of bouncing back after shocks, because what is proven so far is that we have been able to withstand the adverse climatic shocks because of resilience of pastoralism,” he concluded.
OSIEA continues to support its partners to contribute towards enabling pastoralists like Loware to create sustainable livelihoods and attain food security. The key priority areas of focus include strengthening community structures- especially the capacity of the Pastoral Council of Elders– to improve their articulation of pastoral issues to local authorities and national government, supporting efforts to rationalize land use in pastoral areas to promote land use that enables pastoral communities to build sustainable livelihoods, and availing evidence/data for use in planning and decision making by governments and other actors.