Keywords: environmental conflict, transhumant, pastoralism, development, Karamoja, Uganda, range management, farmer-herder
Environmental degradation and conflict in Karamoja, Uganda: the decline of a pastoral society
Throughout history, the Karamojong people of northeastern Uganda practiced a method of pastoralism. Limited surface water, a hot, arid climate, and a short season of torrential rains guarantee excessive soil erosion and land degradation. However, the Karamojong's mobility ensured that their herds grazed throughout the year without jeopardising future grazing. Despite their ecologically sustainable practices, few people understood the Karamojong's system of pastoralism and proposed curbing their mobility – through policy or more often, through force. This paper argues that because of the settlement of the Karamojong in an area not environmentally suitable for settlement, violent conflict has increased. The Karamojong's lifestyle has led to societal marginalisation, and a national policy of militarisation. In response, the Karamojong believe they have only two options: fight or settle. This paper proposes that a more sustainable solution for the people and the environment is to support the Karamojong's transhumant lifestyle, and thus, produce peace.