What you need to know:
- Most farmlands in the area have dried up and district officials say some cattle had started dying, which forced some herdsmen to cross their cattle to the neighbouring DR Congo.
At least 10,000 herds of cattle have reportedly crossed to the Democratic Republic of Congo from Ntoroko District in search of water and pasture after a prolonged dry spell hit the area, officials have said.
Most farmlands in the area have dried up and district officials say some cattle had started dying, which forced some herdsmen to cross their cattle to the neighbouring DR Congo.
The dry spell has resulted in a reduction in milk production, forcing prices to increase from Shs 1,500 to Shs 2,500, a litre.
The most affected sub-counties include; Rwebisengo, Bweramure, Butungama, Kibuuku and Kanara which are located in the lowland areas bordering DR Congo.
Mr James Asiimwe, a cattle keeper in Butungama sub-county, said he and the majority of his colleagues started moving their cattle via River Semuliki to areas of Kyobe, Kiseke, Kasenge, Kyomya, Kikoga, Kyabwohe and Karyabugongo in DR Congo.
“I am now taking the second batch of animals to DR Congo, I have no other option. Some of our animals had started dying but good enough in DR Congo there is enough pasture,” he said.
"When you reach you talk to chiefs there. Some ask you to give them a bull in order to give you where to graze your cattle from for more than two months," Mr Asiimwe added.
The herders use a ferry at the Rwebale landing site on River Semuliki while others force animals into the water to cross.
The herdsmen accuse the government of Uganda of denying them access to Semuliki National Park to graze their animals there during the dry season.
The Ntoroko District Production Officer, Dr Patrick Bagonza Businge, said that last year, over 15,000 heads of cattle died during a dry spell, and over 7,000 have so far died this year.
“In the past, we used to look after animals communally but now people have fenced off their farms and neglected them which causes a lack of pasture. The area don’t have many natural water bodies and farmers don’t have the capacity to dig valley dams, which causes scarcity of water,” he said.
The Ntoroko District chairman, Mr William Kasoro, said the invasive weed has taken a huge toll on several farms in the area, causing a lack of pasture.
“Most of the farms are covered by the weed and farmers don’t have where to graze animals from. We are requesting the government to send us equipment to clear that weed from farms such that people can get pasture for their animals,” he said.
The herdsmen are crossing to DR Congo at a time when ADF rebels are attacking and killing people in the eastern parts of the country. Last December, ADF rebels crossed from DR Congo and raided Ntoroko District. However, about 17 of them were killed and 13 others were captured by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).