“Pastoralism is a system of survival for pastoral communities and movement is a central coping mechanism,” noted Milton Lopiria, Warrior Squad Foundation. “Movement enables pastoralists to access pasture, water and enhances their peaceful co-existence with other communities,” he added.
Migration, the mainstay of pastoral livelihood system
“Migration is the cornerstone of pastoralism survival,” revealed Lopiria. “If pastoralists don’t migrate, they will not access resources and would lose their livestock,” he added.
Because Karamoja is a semi-arid area, pastoralists have to move to access pasture and water; if they don’t, their livelihood is threatened. Migration is a critical coping mechanism; it helps pastoralists escape from pests and diseases and to conserve the environment from degradation.
“Migration has over the years enabled us to conserve our environment from degradation,” revealed a Kraal owner. “When we migrate, we allow time for our land to regenerate,” he added.
“Migration is at the core of pastoral livelihoods,” noted a community member. “If you disrupt migration, you disrupt the pastoral livelihood system,” he added.
At the same time, migration enables the recipient community to access milk and meat.
Breaking barriers to pastoral migration to foster food security
Since 2014, Warrior Squad Foundation, with support from Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, has been implementing a project, “Breaking Barriers to Pastoral Mobility towards Food Security in Karamoja, in Uganda. This project 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 supported the establishment of a Pastoral Council of Elders which determines when, where and what period within the year the animals should migrate, fosters good relationships with neighboring communities where the animals migrate and settle temporarily The foundation has also supported the development of pastoral code of conduct, a great planning tool for pastoralists in migration as it stipulates migration regulations and conflict mitigation measures. Additionally the foundation has supported the development of pastoral migratory route and gazing map that defines the migratory patterns of pastoralists and helps to track the movement of pastoralists in search of pasture and water. The Foundation has also engaged government institutions like the Wildlife Services and Security forces to support pastoralism especially in fostering security as well as supported peace dialogues by sensitizing the youth on positive pastoral approaches including peaceful co-existence and responsible use of resources. At the same time, the Foundation has supported communities to organize and champion and articulate their issues to government.
Great strides made!
Because communities can migrate to access pasture and water, they have been able to survive the harsh conditions to keep their livestock, their main source of livelihood.
“Since we are able to move to access water and pasture for our livestock, we have not lost them to severe drought,” noted a community member. “This has demonstrated pastoralism as the most resilient livelihood system,” he added.
Security forces are now providing security to pastoralists while on the move using the migratory maps, significantly reducing cases of livestock theft and raids. The Pastoral Council of Elders, working with security forces now tracks and recovers livestock, reducing instances of conflicts previously caused by retaliatory attacks. At the same time, collective impounding of livestock has reduced due to adherence to the pastoral code of conduct that has seen communities resort to peaceful means of resolving disputes.
Communities are now sharing resources with their neighbours within Karamoja and Turkana as a show of solidarity to enable their neighbors to access resources for survival. Communities have in many cases chosen to share their resources amidst opposition by their leaders or politicians.
“Even when our politicians and leaders are against us allowing our neighbors to access our resources, we have gone ahead to allow them because we understand the importance of sharing resources,” noted a Kraal owner. “We know that when it is dry here, we will need to move to their jurisdiction to access their resources,” he added.
Management of pastoral resources has improved greatly because of movement, resulting in sustainable use.
“Since we move to allow pasture to regenerate and water to fill, we are able to sustainably use our resources,” revealed a community member. “During dry season, we had no pasture here, so we moved to allow the pasture to grow and see how much pasture we now have!” he exclaimed.
But pastoralists still face numerous challenges that threaten their livelihoods
Livestock diseases are still a great challenge for pastoral communities.
“Last year, most of the livestock was infected with foot and mouth disease”, noted a Kraal owner. “This presented a great challenge due to lack of livestock health services, he added.
Pastoral communities still experience conflict in utilization of resources due to the scarcity caused by harsh climatic conditions. This is not helped by politicians who sometimes discourage the sharing of resources with other communities.
Inadequate water for livestock remains the biggest challenge facing pastoralists in Kotido, Karamoja. The dams are not enough to cater for the livestock in the region.
Warrior Squad Foundation will continue to build the consciousness and knowledge of pastoralists in pastoral systems and to enable them manage resources more effectively. In addition, the foundation will continue to organize communities to champion their issues to be more strategic in search of resources from other communities. The foundation will advocate for construction of water dams to enable pastoralists to access water for their livestock and continue supporting the Pastoral Council of Elders and District Councils for advocacy in budgeting to ensure that the interests of pastoralists are captured in the budgets.
Central to the support is the conviction by the foundation that every person has a right to be heard and their livelihood systems MUST be respected. Pastoralism, with it coping mechanisms, must be protected if sustainable development is to be realized.