Cattle raids return to Karamoja
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | It is early afternoon in Lokitela-ekuam village in Rupa sub-county in Moroto District on July 01 and about 200 villagers are seated under a big umbrella tree, discussing increasing cattle theft and violence in the area. Everyone appears tense, nervous, and agitated.
Every speaker talks tough. They want a return to the peace they have enjoyed for the last 15 years since the government did a major disarmament programme in their community.
Prisca Nakiru is one of only three women at the meeting. As LC III Chairperson of Rupa sub-county, she is unusual in this male-dominated warrior society where might is often equated to right. Standing at about six feet tall and armed with a voice that commands authority, she lays out her plan before the many young men and a few elders.
Nakiru knows about rumours that the government is pondering a second disarmament programme. And she knows most Karimojong dread it. Many have no fond memories of the last disamarment. They say the government soldiers were ruthless.
“If we stop stealing cows, the disarmament will not come back,” she tells the meeting, “If you have a gun, better hand it over peacefully before the security people come to your homes.The animals we raid do not bring any benefits to the community; they only bring curses.”
Stella Atyang, the Woman MP for Moroto District, is the other woman at the meeting. She is softer spoken than Nakiru. But her message is as clear.
“The person who brought back cattle raiding to our region is the real enemy of Karamoja,” she tells the men, “togetherness is what will bring development to the community.”
Following 15years of peace, the Karamoja region in the semi-arid northeastern horn of Uganda is slowly slipping back into its violent and notorious past. The Karimojong are pastoral people but many are now struggling to protect their prized asset: the cattle.
Karamoja, a conglomeration of nine districts, is about 27,511 sq km in size which actually makes it slightly bigger than Rwanda (26,338 sq km). It has a population of about 1.2 million people.
But the sub-region holds about 30% of the country’s livestock wealth including; 20% of the nation’s cattle, 16% of its goats, nearly half of all sheep, over 90% of donkeys and all camels, according to the most recent available statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics which were released in 2009.The livestock; especially cattle is the mainstay of the people.
On a recent visit to the region, The Independent heard tales of desperation from victims of cattle loss. The leaders of the national army (the UPDF) stationed there say they have the situation under control but local leaders and civil society say the cattle thefts are spiraling out of control.
Raiding cattle is an ancient traditional practice in the region, used in the past to acquire cattle for prestige and marrying many women. But the practice has turned into a commercial venture involving businessmen from outside Karamoja.
“The thieves steal these animals and move them at night and sell them for as low as Shs 200,000. The cows are taken to Kampala and Mbale but the biggest number are taken to South Sudan,” says Peter Abrahams Loki, the MP for Kotido Municipality.
Loki says Karamoja has been suffering since the government pulled UPDF personnel from the region and took them to Somalia. He says a vacuum was created that the cattle entrepreneurs exploited and people began re-armament.
“From the use of bows and arrows to steal one or two cows, gunshots began reverberating in the region and the thieves are taking away thousands of cattle,” Loki told The Independent.
MP Atyang told The Independent that what is going on is not petty cattle theft, although some people prefer to call it that.
“These are raids because a massive number of animals are involved,” she said.
“A village that loses 700 cows in one swoop loses about Shs 1.5 billion; people are losing a lot of money in these ongoing cattle raids,” says Simon Peter Longoli, the executive director of the Karamoja Development Forum, an indigenous non-profit that is building capacity to protect pastoralist rights in the region.
“These raids are subjecting people who are already vulnerable to more decades of poverty,” he told The Independent in an interview.
“From the stories we are gathering, the violence is getting back to the pre-disarmament days,” he said. He was referring to a ten-year disarmament programme that ran between 2001 and 2010.
The disarmament programme saw the UPDF rid Karamoja of over 40,000 illegal arms, bringing an end to armed cattle rustling. But Karamoja’s vast landscape and sparse population coupled with porous international borders with Kenya and South Sudan have seen Karimojong warriors get rearmed.
Original Post: The independent
Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara
Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.
There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.
But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.
By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.
James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.
Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.
Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.
Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.
Original Source: URA via The Independent
Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens
A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.
This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.
Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.
Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.
He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.
Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.
She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.
John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.
Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.
He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.
Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.
Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.
Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.
He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.
Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.
Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.
Original Source: URN via The Independent
Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet
The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.
According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.
He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.
He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.
He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.
He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers. Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive. He says that five of the thirty have since died.
Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.
Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.
He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.
Original Source: URN via The independent
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