FEATURE-Bureaucracy and conflict prevent Ugandan herders from moving to deal with climate change

* Herders must adapt to increasingly erratic rainfall * Government-led talks replace informal land access agreements

* Ranchers say they are being pressured into relying more on agriculture By Liam Taylor

Elder Loit Paul Lobunei looked west across the parched plains of Karamoja in northeastern Uganda. “The water went to the lake,” he said – and it was time for him to follow. When the dry season sets in, cattle herders like Lobunei prepare to drive their herds across the region to dams or other remote water bodies, negotiating access with communities they find along the way. of road.

This centuries-old practice helps local people – known to outsiders as Karamojong – to survive in a harsh environment where rainfall was already unstable from year to year before climate change made it even more erratic. But nowadays it is increasingly difficult for herders https://news.trust.org/item/20210625103957-8jpk8 to make their seasonal migration, as reduced access to common land, the resurgence of insecurity and the growing presence of the state made resources negotiated. more formal.

Some ranchers and activists say excessive government undermines the viability of ranching and drives them to rely on agriculture https://news.trust.org/item/20211203182751-pji24, which is vulnerable to drought and floods. In his home district of Nakapiripirit, Lobunei said he was increasingly surrounded by large farms off-limits to his cows and had to bypass a wildlife sanctuary that let herders through a few decades ago.

He must also seek written permission from a growing number of government officials who regulate movement on the grasslands where his ancestors once freely grazed their cattle. “Are we the Karamojong – or is the government the Karamojong? he reflected.

Changing seasons A 2017 report https://docs.wfp.org/aplu/documents/fa17125b0b7e46f628180AB81f628180AB81F6B7C7/Download/?_ga=2.118887697.16424117697.1118887697.16424117697.164577700-142411700 by government agencies and Ugandan partners noted that since 1981, saw Karamoja more extensive dry spells HTTPS://news.trust.org/item/20211130110410-2nsc1 and more frequent bursts of heavy rain.

And in the future, he warned, global warming will make the region’s rainfall “more unpredictable, unreliable and intense”. Locals report that the seasons have changed, so the names of the months no longer correspond to the natural events they describe.

The month of ‘lomaruk’, for example, is named after white mushrooms that once grew in March, but now appear months later. Historically, herders in the region could adapt by moving their animals, negotiating access to water and pasture through a mechanism called etamam, or “sending a message”, said Emmanuel Tebanyang, a policy analyst at the Karamoja Development Forum (KDF), a civil society organization group.

The elders first hold a series of clan meetings to decide whether to migrate this season, after which scouts are sent out to search for possible grazing areas. If a host community offers hospitality, a bull will be slaughtered as a sign of peace. But etamam is undergoing a “rapid transformation”, Tebanyang said, as talks are increasingly conducted through local government officials, who must provide written permission before migration can begin.

The state has sought to control and document movement in Karamoja since colonial times, but in recent decades, pastors say its presence has become more entrenched. “This is a new culture where everything is done by the government,” said Alex Lemu Longoria, who as a Karamojong elder and former mayor of Moroto town worked in traditional systems and officials.

There are now nine districts in Karamoja, up from four in 2005. The creation of new districts and sub-counties means herders need clearance from more officials before they can cross borders. “They don’t even go there now because of this problem,” Longoria said. “There are a lot of questions being asked (by officials): ‘Why are you moving there?'”

Another obstacle is a new wave of armed cattle rustling since 2019, when guns crossed the border from neighboring Kenya https://news.trust.org/item/20190913133439-8zs6r and South Sudan, making breeders more fearful and authorities stricter. Karamoja Police spokesman Michael Longole said herders have “a free range system” but authorities have placed “many restrictions” on traders transporting cattle across districts.

“Our staff have moved in to tell (traders) that we are tightening this because of cattle rustling,” he said. POWER CHANGES

An attempt to bridge the gap between grassroots dialogue and formal processes is the creation of “peace” and “resource sharing” committees made up of community representatives, said Denis Pius Lokiru, program manager at the international aid agency Mercy Corps. The organization has supported the signing of four agreements in Karamoja since 2019, which have been observed by government officials and incorporated into local regulations.

“These agreements clearly set out the terms on how best to peacefully share water and other natural resources without causing conflict,” Lokiru said. The new committees also include more young people and women, said Cecilia Dodoi, vice president of the Kotido Women’s Forum for Peace.

“Now there is a big change because our voices are heard,” she said, adding that many women are widows who can bear witness to the consequences of the conflict. But KDF’s Tebanyang wonders whether the written agreements are aimed at grassland herders or office bureaucrats.

“(Farmers) don’t need these documents,” he said. “They killed bulls… Then we ignore all those symbols and just look for a thumbprint as conclusive evidence of a deal.” MORE CROPS, LESS LIVESTOCK

As pastoralism continues to evolve in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has promoted sedentary agriculture in Karamoja. During a visit in 2019, he insisted that “everyone must be engaged in modern commercial agriculture https://statehouse.go.ug/media/news/2019/06/12/government- industrialize-karamoja-sub-region-build-20-vally-dams”, which he says is more productive.

Although many of Karamoja’s 1.2 million people have long practiced agropastoralism – combining cattle herding and small-scale farming – research shows they have relied more heavily on agriculture in the past. over the past two decades. Analysis of satellite data by researchers at the University of Maryland showed a four-fold increase in the area under cultivation between 2000 and 2011.

And a 2018 study by the Karamoja Resilience Support Unit, a research group, found that almost 60% of households https://karamojaresilience.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/tufts_1850_krsu_livestock_wealth_v2_online.pdf do not own no longer enough livestock to provide an adequate food supply. But local observers warn of an unbalanced focus on crops at a time when the impacts of climate change are accelerating.

“Nobody wants to give up livestock completely,” said Simon Peter Lomoe, executive director of the Dynamic Agro-Pastoralist Development Organisation, a Ugandan nonprofit. “If there’s a drought here, you can always move the cattle to get water. You can’t move the crops.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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