Karamoja

The For Life Onlus Charity is working together with the Combonian Fathers Village missionaries in Kotido Karamoja , which lies in the north of Uganda, bordering the countries of Kenya and Sudan. Karamoja is divided into three districts, Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit. Karamoja is a dry region, with an average rainfall of only 600 mm per year. In response to these ecological conditions, the Karimojong took on widespread cattle herding as their main economic activity. This was supplemented by creating and
maintaining small farms and fields of local crops.

Kotido in Karamoja presents a unique development challenge for the For Life Onlus Charity and the Combonian Missionaries, unlike the rest of Uganda, Kotido has a mixture of security problems, acute poverty, vulnerability to drought, poor infrastructure and basic social services, limited marketing opportunities, natural resource degradation, social and cultural marginalisation and a  long-standing dependency on international aid.

Kotido in Karamoja stands out as the least socially and economically developed area in Uganda, even among the poorer parts of northern Uganda. Both the colonial and post-colonial governments viewed the Karimojong way of life as outdated, economically inefficient, and environmentally damaging. Efforts were therefore made to settle them through imposition of boundaries, reprocessing of land for game and forest reserves, restricted movement of cattle to dry season grazing areas, forced de-stocking, and the 
intensification of cropping. With the result that there was increased competition for the already limited scarce resources leading to a decline of average herd sizes and destitution of households.

The failure to address community derogation has encouraged the violent conflict and raiding; the conflict is chronic and is part of daily life. The heavy militarization of the region arising from many years of conflict with the LRA and breakdown of administration in Uganda has created a situation in which lawlessness; deprivation of life and property and the rule of the gun has become the order of the day.

The impact of the conflict in Kotido is difficult to quantify. Reports have shown that of more than 300 women interviewed during 1998 and 1999, virtually every one had lost a family member to violence with the LRA. Raiding has become a major cause of abject poverty, removing a household’s livelihood at a stroke. Reports found in fieldwork that out of 160 respondents in Kotido, 47 had lost relatives. The increased scale of raiding, particularly in the last decade, has led to displacement of communities within Karamoja itself and in districts of Kotido and is also suggested to have had environmental impacts through the tendency to concentrate livestock for added security. The militarization of Kotido in Karamoja society has also had an impact on cultural institutions and destruction of livelihood survival strategies.

Seven hundred and twenty five people were killed and 20,000 cattle were lost in the Kotido  region of Karamoja between June 2003 and April 2004. This high number of people and livestock lost shows how grave the problem is and is more likely to continue to more suffering and loss of livelihoods and homes.

In Uganda today the majority of displaced families is estimated at over 200,000 ,in major towns such as Mbale, Iganga, Jinja and Kampala the majority are from the Karamoja region. They are direct victims of poverty and insecurity in Karamoja.

Our policies and aims at the For Life Onlus Charity identify priorities to help these communities improve their management of natural resources, introducing livelihood diversification, drought management, formal education provision, livestock health services, disease control and marketing local products, preventive health services, development and management of water sources, infrastructure and telecommunications.