MOROTO – About five years ago, Mr Mark Lote, a resident of Kautakou village in Ngoleriet sub-county, Napak District, used to cross to the neighbouring Teso districts in search of water for his animals due to a severe shortage of the resource in Karamoja Sub-region.
However, whenever Mr Lote together with his other pastoralists crossed to Teso region, a serious fight would break out with the Iteso.
Mr Lote and other pastoralists in Karamoja were convinced that the water that they were searching for in Teso came from Karamoja.
“We could fight but because the Iteso are not good fighters they end up leaving us watering our animals,” he recalls.
Moses Dengel, another pastoralist, recalls when the Iteso threatened to poison the water sources that the Karimojong used to water animals.
“When I heard about the Iteso planning to poison the water, I sat down thinking what next with my animals,” he says.
However, the water conflicts between the Karimojong and Iteso are now in the past.
This was after the government through the Ministry of Water and Environment constructed six multipurpose water dams in a move to address the water shortage in Karamoja.
Each district has at least got a big dam and a valley tank for every parish across the entire sub-region.
The dams are located as follows, Kobebe dam in Moroto,Arecek dam in Napak, Longoromit dam in Kaabong, Magagama dam in Abim.
Others still under construction include, Lobalangit in Kotido, Morungole in Kaabong.
Since the construction of the dams, area leaders say there has been no incidents of Karimojong crossing to their neighbouring districts for water and pasture since most of them are now grazing and watering their animals within these dams.
During the dry season, Karimojong pastoralists from the Moroto district move with thousands of their cattle and settle around Kobebe dam, while Bokora pastoralists in Napak district also settle around Areceke water dam watering their animals instead of crossing to Teso.
The Dodoth in Kaabong move and settle near Longoromit dam grazing their animals.
Mr Jino Meri, the district chairperson for Kaabong, says the construction of the dams has reduced conflicts and migration of the Karimojong to the neighbouring Teso districts.
“All this success we give to First Lady Janet Museveni who was then the minister in charge of Karamoja Affairs because it was her Initiative,” he says.
Mark Lochio, a pastoralist from Rupa Sub-county, says the presence of the dams has made their animals grow in size because they are no longer forced to walk long distances in search of water and animals.
“Those days our cattle were not weighing 100 kilogrammes due to over walking several kilometres searching for water but now since these dams were constructed, we have settled and our animals are now weighing between 300kg and 600kg each,” he says.
He says the only challenge disturbing them is cattle rustling.
He recalls that Karamoja has been having so many ministers but there was nothing that they did from which they can be remembered compared to what Ms Museveni did.
“Those years our leaders could only mobilise us to be greeted by government officials who later introduced themselves to us that they were ministers in charge of Karamoja development but they could not do anything like what Ms Museveni did while she was a minister,” he says.
Ms Joyce Nangiro, a pastoralist, says apart from watering the animals, the dams have also helped them with water for domestic use and food production.
Ms Nangiro, who has grown her vegetables around Arecek dam in Napak district, says she has been able to take her children to school by growing onions, tomatoes and cabbages around the dam.
Joseph Abura, another pastoralist from Lorengechora Sub County in Napak district, says if all the ministers appointed to take charge of Karamoja had played their roles like Ms Museveni, the sub-region would have grown.
“Our problem was only water but all other ministers didn’t understand,” he says.
He appeals to the government to put more attention to creating more water dams in the sub-region to avoid animals from being overcrowded in one dam.
Mr Abura also appeals government to improve infrastructures such as roads and markets so that they are able to access markets for their animal products.
Similar dams have also been constructed in the Teso districts bordering Karamoja such as Katakwi, Amuria and Kapelebyong.
Mr Patrick Okotel, an engineer from the Ministry of Water and Environment in charge of Teso region, says the President has directed for more dams to be constructed in both regions of Teso and Karamoja.
“We are designing more dams to be dug in Karamoja and Teso region as per the directive from the President to the ministry of Water,” he says.
According to Mr Okotel, some of the dams will help in reducing flooding, especially in the Teso region which is lowland.
Mr James Olinga, the resident engineer from the Ministry of Water and Environment in charge of water for production in Karamoja, says the ministry plans to construct a man-made lake around Lopei swamp in Napak District.
“We are working on many dams in Karamoja and it’s our wish that by 2028, water problems in the sub-region will be history,” he says.
Mr Samson Lokeris, the former Member of Parliament for Dodoth East, says more multipurpose dams are needed in the sub-region to end the scarcity of water.