Government Denies Plan to Abolish Pastoralism, Says Nomadism Must Go

For centuries the country has suffered both external and internal conflicts with migrating pastoral communities clashing over water and pastures, and at times with indigenous pastoralists or cultivators, but also it is blamed for spreading diseases.
30 Sep 2021 19:38
A used-up local charcoal furnace in Pakwach District

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The Government has refuted claims that it is planning to abolish pastoralism in the country, but instead says it hopes to end the seasonal migration of livestock, which is common in East Africa. 

Pastoralism is the rearing of animals on vast grazing lands, usually referred to as rangelands, as opposed to intensive livestock farming where the animals are kept in a small restricted area and fed on sourced feeds. 

Nomadism on the other hand refers to the movement of livestock from one area of water and pasture scarcity to an area of plenty due seasonal changes or any unfavourable condition, a system also referred to as transhumance.

For centuries the country has suffered both external and internal conflicts with migrating pastoral communities clashing over water and pastures, and at times with indigenous pastoralists or cultivators. 

Other dreaded effects of transhumance or nomadism is the increased chances of spreading diseases, among others. 

The proposed National Rangeland Policy, now with the parliament, among other things provides strategies that are aimed at improving the livestock industry but also the livelihoods of the livestock farmers.

Denis Maholo, the Senior Pasture Agronomist at the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, says pastoralism is a livelihood and cannot be abolished, but that the government intention is to support the end to transhumance. 


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The clarification comes amidst the debate on how human activities can be streamlined to ensure they do not harm the environment, especially the grazing lands rangelands.   

The process to develop the policy has been on for 10 years now, while the policy draft itself has been in parliament for close two years. 


Dr Denis Mpairwe, from the Department of Agricultural Production at Makerere University says they delay is a result of the changing government priorities, especially since the paper was submitted to parliament just before the outbreak of covid-19.


But he says it will cater for the concerns pertaining to pastoralism and generally land use. 


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A Senior Lecturer at the School of Forestry, Environment and Geography Dr Anthony Egelu says, one policy cannot protect livestock unless it is comprehensive enough to cover different sectors of the society and the economy.  

Egelu, for example says, the growing use and demand for charcoal has diverse effects on the livestock industry, yet charcoal if an economic activity driven not only by the local, but also the international markets.

Most of the charcoal produced in Uganda comes from what is known as the rangelands. 


The production area has over the years grown from the Luwero Triangle to other parts of the country.


Dr Egelu says a policy that answers all these must answer the question of low usage of electricity, which would then reduce on the demand for charcoal and in turn save the rangelands.  


He warns that there is a brewing storm unless the charcoal industry is brought under control, because the demand will continue growing due to the rapid urbanisation. 


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A good policy is not only good for the domestic animals but wild game especially those that feed on the same species of pasture.   

He says the policy should therefore cater for communities whose livestock interact with wildlife especially in the protected areas, to promote coexistence.


There are almost 7 million Ugandans who rely on livestock in the cattle corridor alone for their livelihoods, and own more than a third of the total animal stock in the country. 


The Executive Director, Food Rights Alliance, Agnes Kirabo says any policy that is to be made, must be made in consultation with the affected people so as to avoid further depriving them. 


Kirabo says the neglect of the livestock industry is one reason Uganda is still importing dairy products.  


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