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Pastoral Lives amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed countries of the world to adopt multiple approaches towards containing the spread of the virus that has killed about 323,256 people as of 21st May 2020. In Uganda, the government has initiated varying degrees of movement restrictions and inter-state border closures to flatten the curve of the infections. The implication of this development has halted several businesses that require inter-state logistics and movements. 

Pastoralists in Uganda are known for constant movement in search of pasture for their livestock across borders and districts. Over the years, violent clashes between farmers and herders over access to land have been recurrent. The intensity of the conflict is due to some factors. The receding rains pose a great worry to the teaming number of herders who need pasture for their livestock. These environmental factors are responsible for the southward migration of herders where they are in constant competition over access to diminishing resources with the sedentary farmers. The ensuing melee has led to numerous losses of lives and destruction of properties. In the face of inter-state lockdown, what is the fate of pastoralists?

Uganda is one of the few countries still practising open grazing system. The nature of pastoralism in Uganda requires constant movement of pastoralists and their livestock. The inter-state lockdown has affected this nomadic herding – although unchecked entry points through the districts can still be accessed. However, this poses a serious challenge to a country trying to stop a raging virus from consuming its 200 million population. Much worse, movement restrictions confine pastoralists to areas where there might be a shortage of pasture, and increase the possibility of farmland encroachments. The resultant effect will lead to renewed clashes between farmers and herders.

Government policies, in general, have been in favour of pastoralism. Even though there are the same specific concerns in the Ugandan legal framework with respect to pastoralism, key laws still guarantee certain rights of pastoralists. Provisions related to land rights, property rights, mobile production and rangelands as enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution and visible in, among others the land and, the land policy, mining and conservation laws, are overall favourable. In 2013 for instance, the National Land Policy was approved in which the Government articulated its commitment to protecting the land resources of pastoralists by ensuring that pastoral lands held, owned and controlled by pastoral communities are registered under customary tenure.
In May 2019 at the closing ceremony of the Land Awareness Week in Moroto, Hon. Persis Namuganza, the State Minister of Lands, informed stakeholders that "all rangelands used by pastoralists must be given priority in order to secure ownership rights as soon as possible".

Mobility of livestock and herders is fundamental to sustain the contribution of Karamoja's livestock sector to household food security, local and national economy, grazing areas should be protected and traditional mechanisms of land use and management, in addition to traditional mechanisms of conflict resolutions require adequate support, 

People that have a garden are counting themselves lucky as many people are surviving off one a meal day.Uganda, like many African countries, enforced lockdown measures early which seems to have been effective. Uganda confirmed their first case on March 21, but schools were shut and public gatherings suspended the day before, and land and air borders were already planned to close on the following day.

Other measures were gradually brought in over the next 10 days, as public and private transport was banned, non-essential shops closed, and a dawn to dusk quarantine was introduced.

As of mid May Uganda had around 200 confirmed cases and zero deaths.

Uganda, like other countries such as India, will rely on aid and support to combat COVID-19 and hunger. But let's not forget the amazing people in these countries who are working hard and the brilliant things they are doing to fight this pandemic.