Pastoralists in Nakasongola district are slowly recovering from successive seasons of drought,which left hundreds of cattle herders in need of assistance.
The droughts led to an outbreak of the deadly foot and mouth disease, killing several animals and destabilizing their source of income. Drought has become endemic and the animals in this region struggle to adapt to the changing environment.
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Hundreds of pastoralists in Nakasongola district could hardly smile, and quite understandably, over 10,000 cows had died of the foot and mouth disease. The animal carcasses were burnt or buried to control further spread of the disease. As a result, the farmers gained nothing from their hard work animal.
The Nakasongola District Veterinary Officer, Dr.Eswagu Sam, says this year's drought was more severe than usual, a problem compounded by over stocking.
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Some of the pastoralists lost entire kraals. They explain what this loss means to them.
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At the height of the drought, the price of meat dropped from 2000 shillings to a record low of 500 shillings. Similarly the price of milk increased from 500 shillings per liter to 1,000 shillings. The drastic price changes in cattle products have left several pastoralists worried.
Robert Semayobe, the Wabigalo and Kamunina Parish councilor, says many pastoralists are scared of a potential disease outbreak, this time not affecting the animals but the human beings. The fear has been compounded by the fact that sources of water have been contaminated by animal dung. Many people take the dirty water because alternative sources of water like the boreholes are few to supply water to the whole village.
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The pastoralists may be troubled by the seasonal droughts but they have not run out of ideas to solve their plight. They seem to know what would turn out to be a long lasting solution to the problem.
James Sekanza a local councilor in Kakooge Sub County says problems arising from the annual drought could be solved through forestation. The problem with his suggestion though is that the tree seedlings cost 500 shillings each. This is expensive for the local people.
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Besides planting trees as a long term measure to the problem of drought, the pastoralists think that a by-law on bush burning would help regulate the system of cattle grazing in the area.
This suggestion is not far fetched because the district leaders are already looking at ways of devising laws that will regulate ways of grazing in the area.
Dr.Eswagu wouldn't agree less on a need for a by-law.
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Being a largely livestock keeping zone,leaders in this area need to put in place measures that will keep their animals alive so they can have sustainable house hold incomes. Eswagu says, for now there is no such mechanism in place.
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