By Francis Emorut
Struck by hunger, the people of Kotido district have been forced to sell their cattle so as to survive death from starvation.
The Karimojong treasure their cattle as A source of wealth and mostly used for marriage purposes.
"It's hard time for us (the Karimojong) because there is scarcity of food and we don't have any other alternative apart from selling our cows," John Awoja, the LCI chairman of Kalele village in Nakapelimoru subcounty, Kotido district, said.
Awoja explained the Karamoja area has been hit by dry spell and their crops have dried up and people are faced with hunger.
Karimojong women and their children at Nakapelimoru sub county in Kotido district. Hunger gas ravaged the region in recent months. Photo by Francis Emorut
He said to make matters worse the animals are also dying due to the prong longed drought.
Kotido LC5 boss Adome Lokwi pointed out that if interventions to salvage food insecurity are not forthcoming soon deaths will be reported in his district as is the case in Moroto district.
"There is food shortage everywhere and this has forced the people to sell their cattle so as to buy food," Lokwi said.
The residents buy cereals such as maize and sorghum and others after selling the animals which are loaded into trucks during market days.
A Karimojong spears a cow to get blood and mix it with milk at Nakapelimoru sub county in Kotido district. The concoction is a delicacy . Photo by Francis Emorut
Andrew Teko, the chairman of Kanawat Cattle Market, noted that the Karimojong are forced to sell their animals cheaply in order to avoid deaths as a result of starvation.
He explained that cows which used to be sold at sh800, 000 now go for sh500, 000 while a bull which used to fetch sh1.3m goes at sh1m.
In addition, goats which used to be sold at sh100, 000 are now sold at sh50, 000.
"The situation is terrible and we are worried of our children," Nariang a resident of Nakapelimoru said.
Angomo Etirae, a resident of Kotido, appealed to government to intervene before they lose their animals to businessmen in attempt to save lives.
"Government should intervene and rescue us from this food scarcity situation," Angomo said.
The residents made remarks on the sidelines of a meeting with Members of European Parliament who visited the region on fact finding mission on how pastoralists are coping with life due to impact of climate change.
The visit was organized by Coalition of Pastoralist Civil Society Organizations (COPASCO).
A Member of European Parliament Maria Heubuch (Green Party) noted that she will draw the attention of European Parliament about plight of pastoralists when she returns to Parliament while her fellow Parliamentarian Norbert Neuser stressed the need for government to avail the necessary infrastructure for the pastoral community.
Nakiru a resident of Nakapelimoru expressed concern that more animals are going die as water points and pasture have dried up.
Lokwi explained that the district leaders are lobbying government and development partners to intervene and address food scarcity in the region.
Despite the hunger situation the people and their children are not malnourished but move on with life drinking blood mixed with milk and can afford wrestling and drink sachets of Waragi kept in a green Liverpool bag sold in the middle of the bush.
As far as communication is concerned the pastoralists charge their mobile phones in the bush using solar panels.
The food shortage has brought peaceful co-existence between the Karimojongs and Turakana from Kenya who were hostile to each other before.
Bags of maize are being exchanged for cattle at border between Uganda and Kenya.
Bradford Achilla the Kotido district veterinary officer explained that the animals are sold as far as South Sudan and in the districts of Mbale, Pallisa, Tororo, Lira, Gulu and Kitgum as well as the capital city Kampala.
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Hunger forces Karimojongs to sell animals