What you need to know:
- Lack of enough grazing resources resulting from land use/cover change has negatively impacted livestock productivity in Karamoja. This is heightening pastoralists’ vulnerability to poverty.
Since the 1960s, underlying forces such as cropland expansion programmes and controlled grazing originating from land use policy and development programmes have profoundly influenced land-cover and land-use change in Karamoja. Policies based on modernisation theory developed during colonial and post-independence periods have greatly influenced what Karamoja is today.
Dominant land use in Karamoja dryland is extensive livestock production, characterised by seasonal herd mobility to track pasture and water. Today, pastoralists find themselves increasingly confronted by processes of privatisation, fragmentation and commodification of land-based resources. This has led to pasture scarcity, resource conflicts and changes in land tenure, which limit mobility of people and livestock.
Lack of enough grazing resources resulting from land use/cover change has negatively impacted livestock productivity in Karamoja. This is heightening pastoralists’ vulnerability to poverty.
In the dire struggle for survival, pastoralists have resorted to crop cultivation, charcoal burning, and commercial firewood exploitation, which have resulted in deforestation and degradation of the rangeland.
At this time, two ideologies about suitable livelihoods in Karamoja clash. While scientists advocate for pastoral livestock-based livelihoods, government programmes are promoting sedentary crop-based livelihoods. This often leads to cropland expansion with the aim of increasing production in spite of the erratic climate and continued crop failures.
Government programmes instituting sedentary agriculture are the most significant drivers of cropland expansion in Karamoja. However, there is no evidence of an increase in overall crop production or food security and food aid continues to be essential due to recurrent crop failures.
Also, cultivated fields remain very small in size and more than 55 percent of once-cultivated land is left fallow due to lack of resources for inputs such as seeds and labour. This brings a question of whether continued promotion of rain-fed agriculture in Karamoja serves the best interests of the people.
Current cropland expansion is directly competing with and compromising pasture areas critical for livestock-based livelihoods. Without strong agricultural extension programmes and major investments in climate-smart options, cropland expansion will continue to have a net negative impact, especially in the context of current climate projections which indicate a future decrease in rainfall, increase in temperature and an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme events.
Scientific studies have indicated that transhumance movement between wet and dry pasture resources plays an important role of reducing the problems of pasture scarcity resulting from land use/cover changes in semi-arid areas.
However, due to cropland expansion, overstocking and, therefore, overgrazing is negatively affecting the range ecology and its productivity. This has disrupted livestock production systems that have been a viable refuge to environmental shocks and the livelihoods of the communities in these areas.
There’s need to understand the extent to which cropland expansion has occurred and its effect on pasture and, therefore, livestock livelihoods if we are to address the people’s interest in this region. Rain-fed agriculture may not serve the best interests of Karimojongs.
Mr Jamilu Muzinga, Msc Animal Science, a member of the Dryland Transform Project