Frank Muhereza and Peter Otim (2002): Pastoral Resource Competition in Uganda, Case Studies into Commercial Livestock Ranching and Pastoral Institutions.
Africa is home to about 25 million people who lead pastoral livelihoods. In these pastoral communities, the question of access, use, and management of natural resources has become prominent over the last few decades due to increasing human and livestock population, the expansion of crop production, and other land-based economic activities. These changes have made nomadic and transhumant livelihoods untenable and unsustainable. This book analyzes pastoral resource competition in Uganda by focusing on two case studies: commercial livestock ranching in the western and central regions of Uganda; and the transhumant and nomadic livestock system of the Karimojong people in northeast Uganda.
Chapter One introduces the tensions between the local and new production systems that were shaped by government interventions in communities in western and central Uganda, and the role of traditional institutions in the pastoral communities of the Karimojong in northeast Uganda. The second chapter discusses the strategies that were implemented by different government regimes to convert pastoral livestock production systems into commercial ranching. These strategies include the government-sponsored improvement of commercial ranches, such as the building of enclosures/fences to control stock movement, and the improvement of water supply, pasture, and disease control. The government then leased the developed ranches to private operators. The government allocation of ranches was often not based on economic principles, but rather it favored politicians and influential people who eventually mismanaged these ranches. There was also resistance from local people, who were alienated from their areas to make room for the ranches. This created the squatters who cut fences, grazed, and watered their livestock on the ranches, and eventually spread diseases. The squatters were well organized, thus enabling them to successfully invade the ranches, destroying and stealing property. Political instability also led to deterioration of ranch development and production.
The lackluster performance of the ranches and the conflict between squatters and ranchers resulted in the government's decision to repossess the leased ranches that were performing poorly. The government restructured the ranches and redistributed them to ranchers and their squatters, with the goal of establishing collective ranch management where each rancher kept his/her livestock, but collectively managed water and pasture resources. The government provided infrastructure, while ranchers and squatters were asked in turn to pay fees to finance the services. The plan was to use this money to build valley tanks and dams, but funds were often mismanaged, leading to very limited success. Overall, the authors argue that this ranching scheme was limited by politicized leasing decisions and by the resource use conflict between the ranchers and their squatters.
Local institutions and how they are used to manage livestock and natural resources among the Karimojong pastoral communities in northeast Uganda are the focus of Chapter Three. The northeast region has a semi-arid environment with unpredictable rainfall regimes. To survive such biophysical environment, the Karimojong are mainly nomadic or transhumant, with livestock their most important economic and social asset. Women practice limited crop production to supplement the predominantly livestock diets. Like many other pastoral communities in Africa, the Karimojong have a habit of raiding neighboring communities to rustle livestock, or to gain access to pasture and water.
The Karimojong normally do not have traditional royal leaders, with this role instead played by local elders. Their communities have strong traditional institutions that have helped them to survive the harsh biophysical environment and the security dangers that stem from armed cattle rustlers. These institutions have been changing dramatically over the last few decades, due to the proliferation of arms, which has intensified competition for resources, especially during the dry season. This has led to the emergence of warlords. The proliferation of guns in the region is largely a result of political instability in Uganda and southern Sudan. These warlords have usurped political power from the elders, who have been relegated to performing mainly ceremonial duties. The warlords control security alliances called alomars. The alomars have gradually turned into gangs for amassing cattle at the expense of others. Those without cattle have turned to agriculture. Most raids have become economic activities, rather than communal restocking campaigns as in the past. The government has imposed several restrictions on cattle mobility to minimize cattle rustling and armed conflicts. These restrictions have hampered coping strategies among the Karimojong.
The strength of this book is the excellent discussion on the reasons behind the failure of government livestock development programs, namely corruption and political rather than economic motives, and a lack of understanding of the underlying forces of the traditional livestock production system. The authors, however, do not discuss thoroughly the way forward in developing livestock production in both systems. For instance, there was little discussion on the issues of land tenure and its influence on land-related investment, and communal property management.
The authors also dwell too much on the negative side of the government interventions strategies on the Karimojong pastoral lifestyle, without saying much about the effects of their armed cattle rustling in the neighboring districts. For instance, Karimojong cattle rustling among the neighboring Ateso communities have significantly reduced animal draft power, thus radically changing the farming systems of the Ateso communities. In this regard, what should the government do to stop the armed cattle rustling? I feel this question merits deeper discussion than that which the authors present. The case of commercial ranching is also left without serious discussion on what the government needs to do to revamp it.
Ephraim M. Nkonya
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Kampala, Uganda