MOROTO – The two pastoralist communities, the Turkana of Kenya and the Karamojong of Uganda have entered into a joint tree planting as one way of conserving the environment and protecting the water from Kobebe water dam in Moroto district.
The pastoralists with the support from Mercy Corps an organization that deals with cross border peace among the pastoralists have teamed up with the district leadership of Moroto to plant trees along the banks of Rivers in Moroto and Turkana.
Peter Lokuruka, a Turkana kraal leader grazing and watering his animals in Kobebe dam in Moroto district told PML daily on Friday, September 20 that they used not to know the importance of protecting the environment but they have learnt it after their animals dying due to lack of enough shades from trees.
According to Mr. Lokururka, whenever dry season enters there is a lot of hot sunshine that at times cause cracks in the animals skin and later causes bleeding simply because the animals walk along distance on the sunshine without having a rest from any shade.
“We have been losing our animals innocently because of poor environmental management but now since we have learnt that trees play a very big role in our animal health, we are going to guard against environmental destruction,” he said.
John Lokol, another pastoralist from Moroto said they have so far planted over 20,000 trees which include acacia and other local species to protect water from Kobebe dam. He said the tree seedlings were supplied to them by Mercy corps.
“We do a joint weeding and watering of these trees using water from Kobebe dam and we hope by the end of this year our tress would have grown up well and provide good shade for our livestock,” he said.
Mr. Lokol said they sat down as the two pastoralists watering their animals in Kobebe dam and resolve that whoever does not want to weed or water the trees will not be allowed to water his livestock in the dam.
“Every day we start very early in the morning weeding the trees while others are watering before the time for watering animal’s riches and whoever doesn’t participate will not be allowed to water his animals from the dam,” he said.
Mr. Mark Longole an official working with Mercy corps specifically on peace component said it was very hard to bring together the two communities to embrace tree planting.
“In the beginning, there was a lot of resistance among the two pastoralists community but we kept on sensitizing them the importance of protecting the environment and planting more trees until later when they understood and they have embraced it properly,” he said.
Betty Nangiro another pastoralist said they didn’t know that trees can be planted is a reason why they had not picked up interest in tree planting.
“For me myself I grew up knowing tress cant been planted I knew that its God that plants but now, I have known that we can plant more trees and make Karamoja look green,” she said.
Several non-government organizations have been battling to convince the Karimojong pastoralists to embrace tree planting and protecting the environment with the recent development where the advocates for Natural Resources and Development (ANARDE) in partnership with Advocates San frontiers (ASF) launched door to door campaign sensitize the community in Moroto to protect the environment.
Mr. Frank Tumusiime, a Lawyer and coordinator at Researcher Advocates for Natural Resource and Development (ANARDE) noted that Karamoja region will become the worst desert in less than 20 years from now due to high rate of tree cutting if there is no action taken to protect the environment.
On September 12, 2019, President, Yoweri Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a joint cross-border integrated programme for sustainable peace and social-economic transformation for Turkana, West Pokot and Karamoja.
The two leaders signed the MoU in Moroto after touring some of the projects Uganda government had done trying to mitigate drought in Karamoja.
In the signed MoU, both communities on the Kenya and Ugandan sides can now harness opportunities for better cooperation, close coordination and peaceful coexistence.
The initiative is also envisaged to bridge isolation gaps and improve livelihoods and socio-economic conditions for sustainable peace and development.