Project promotes peace, food security in Karamoja

Saturday December 21 2013

It is business unusual at the manyattas in Looro sub-county of Amudate district in Uganda’s Karamoja region. The women tend their crops of tomatoes, maize and groundnuts.

This is a new practice in this area, as residents, the Karimojong, are pastoralists. But the women of Looro have taken up farming to feed their families. They have also formed a 30-member group, Nakimiliam Women’s Group, under which they farm and do business.

Now that they have begun producing food in their manyatta gardens, they say their families will no longer depend on relief food from donor agencies operating in the region.
They plant, weed and harvest together. In their first crop this year, they expect 30 bags of maize and 40 bags of groundnuts.

“We were not able to produce such crops,” says the group’s chairperson, Rose Lotu. “But our lives have changed. We have gained skills in farming, soil conservation and post-harvest conservation through training. Food is now available and we can send our children to school.”

Ms Lotu says that the community has “been relieved from buying food and we are willing to share our new knowledge and skills with new groups.”
But they are still farming on a small scale due to lack of mechanisation and erratic rains.

“Our biggest challenge is that we do not own a tractor. Oxen are available but we lack the skills to use them. Besides, the men do not want the bulls to be used for ploughing, arguing that it is not our culture to torture animals,” Ms Lotu says.


Cattle are very precious to the Karimojong. They consider ploughing using oxen animal torture. To them, cows are for milk, meat and skins.

But Ms Lotu says the time has come to use oxen to increase food production and she is supported by the local administrator.

“After embracing agriculture we have realised that you can buy more cows if you have a good harvest and you can sell an animal to buy food,” says Loroo sub-county LC 3 chairman, Jackson Lotee.

“This project came in and taught us to stop depending on food aid but instead cultivate our own food. As a result, food production has increased and we have adopted modern agricultural skills.”
He says farming has reduced cattle rustling in the region. The Karimojong have also adopted a savings culture, thanks to the Karamoja Livelihoods Programme (Kalip) implemented by a consortium of three partners, the Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development (ACTED), the Institute for Co-operation and Development and Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR-Uganda). ACTED is in charge of community access roads, CPAR-Uganda is promoting crop production, and the Institute for Co-operation and Development is in charge of water infrastructure. DanChurchAid co-ordinates and provides technical assistance in finance and grant management.
The project includes the 28,000-litre Kapkongkong water reservoir, which was inaugurated on April 15, 2013, in Amudat sub-county.
“Before this reservoir was built, we used to fetch water from faraway places,” says Roselyn Loritei, a 22-year-old mother of four. “The nearest water source was four kilometres away from here, but now this distance has been reduced to half a kilometre. We now drink clean water.”
The underground reservoir is built to harvest rainwater running off a rock outcrop.
“We had to come up with innovations like rock catchment water systems because most areas in Karamoja are rocky,” says DanChurchAid-Kalip co-ordinator, Benedict Lokiru.

Access to water has improved not only health but also food production. In addition to this, access roads are now linking the new Karimojong crop farmers to potential and existing markets and other social services.

Production levels of traditional cereal crops, vegetables and other food crops has increased.

The Kalip programme is estimated to benefit 101,520 people in Nakapiripirit and Amudat districts, including vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities and those living with HIV.

The Nakapiripirit district LC 5 chairman, John Lorot, says the area now hasv safe drinking water for both the people and livestock.

“There has been improved health in our animals because community health workers have been trained and equipped with drug kits and bicycles to protect the livestock against common diseases,” Mr Lorot says.

He is optimistic that there will be improved agricultural production in the region because of a plan to replace the hoe with the ox-pulled plough. In the new plan, two or three households will share a pair of oxen to plough their fields.

The development has also ensured security in the region due to the few cases of rustling. The local leaders are now calling on businesses to take advantage of the security to invest in the region.

The Amudat district chief administrative officer, Ismail Mussa Onzu, says that they are now looking for viable markets for their produce to supplement their incomes.