What you need to know:
- Ms Akol has empowered the youth with farming skills as an alternative to cattle rustling.
Somewhere in Karamoja Sub-region, in Acegeretolim Parish, Nabilatuk District sits the Nakurrao-ana-Rwatta community initiative settlement, on land measuring about 10 square kilometres.
Each morning, young people cultivate the land, and grow crops for consumption while others sell to earn a living.
The project, which started in February has changed the mindset of the youth from focusing on cattle rearing to diversifying the economy.
“Every now and then, you hear stories of gunfire exchange and people stealing cows and killing one another. It hurts me that Karamoja is being portrayed in this bad light,” Ms Anne Maniman Akol, 52, the project proprietor, says.
“Cattle rustling is a big issue which I want to resolve as a step towards building peace in the region,” she adds.
Karamoja is currently in the spotlight over insecurity that has led to loss of lives and property, perpetrated by suspected cattle rustlers.
Last week, Brig Joseph Balikudembe, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) 3rd division commander, told Daily Monitor that at least 251 suspected cattle rustlers were killed in 2021 in the sub-region after the police and the army sought to stabilise the area.
Ms Akol, a resident of Napak District, told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that the initiative targets school dropouts between the age of 12 to 30 years.
“This in the end, will definitely reduce cattle rustling in the country,” Ms Akol says. She adds that it was easy to acquire the land for the project because most land in the sub-region is communal.
“The land was vacant when I found it and so, I decided to use it for the project. I only had to notify a few community leaders and elders about what I was doing and that was it,” she says, adding: “And since it is a community project, we work together as a team. I usually encourage any newcomer to clear it and start cultivating crops of their choice.”
Each individual is accorded two acres of land to cultivate sorghum, beans, sweet potatoes and other crops.
So far, a total of 863 people from the villages of Cucu, Nayoroit, Arengesiep and Lotede, all within Nabilatuk District, have been registered for the programme.
“I agree with the members that they should always leave their respective homes early in the morning so that they can arrive on time to cultivate the land and by lunch time, they should have finished their work and then can return to their homes,” Ms Akol says.
She adds that in the recent weeks, the group has been focusing on preparing the land through tilting, adding that they are now proceeding to the next stage of planting.
Mr William Namuk, a beneficiary, says the project is promising.
Before joining the programme in February, Namuk says he was a warrior, who spent most of his time fighting in the community.
“I am now a busy man doing productive work. I am starting to enjoy farm work and because of this, I don’t think I will go back to old ways,” he says.
Ms Akol’s calls upon the government and development partners to boost the programme if the reduction of cattle theft in Karamoja is to be realised.
“For anyone who comes on board, I appeal to you to base yourselves here in Karamoja. It does not make sense for you to support us from far yet the people need you closer for mentorship and guidance,” she says.
The former teacher, who currently runs the project on personal income, however says she is currently overwhelmed by the expenditure.
Ms Akol seeks financial support to sustain the project, which requires purchasing materials such as seeds and tools. She adds that there is need to create more awareness, as well as pay human resource.
Ms Josephine Dengel, 40, a resident of Cucu Village, applauded Ms Akol for rehabilitating the youth in the region.
“These youth tend to get naughty to the extreme of carrying out illegal activities like stealing cows. I am really happy with the work she is doing by keeping them active with farming,” Ms Dengel says.
MS AKOL’S PROFILE
Born in Napak District, Karamoja Sub-region, Ms Anne Maniman Akol, 52, has a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Kyambogo University. She also holds a post graduate diploma in public administration and management; a Masters in educational planning and management; and another Masters in Public administration and management.
Ms Akol has also previously contested as a Member of Parliament for Pian County, then, under Nakapiripirit District and recently in 2021, contested for the Woman MP for Nabilatuk District. Although she did not go through, Akol vows never to give up on attaining her political aspirations.