Karamoja: Building peace through supporting alternative livelihoods
Twenty year old Zakaria Odong used to make a living as a cattle rustler. Together with a group of friends and relatives, they would regularly conduct raids against neighbouring communities, and steal cattle and goats.
“We have known one thing all our lives: attacking other tribes, fighting them, taking their animals and selling them off. That is how we survived,” says Odong, a resident of Moroto district, in the far north-eastern Karamoja sub region.
Odong is among the youths that were disarmed by government and now, thanks to the support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Uganda government, he is an active member of Lotirir reformed warrior’s group.
The Lotirir reformed warriors’ project comprises of 30 young men who denounced cattle rustling for a more settled and productive life. The group is part of over 109 women and youth groups that have benefitted from UNDP support in Karamoja since 2007. So far around 22,050 beneficiaries have been supported under this arrangement.
- “We have known one thing all our lives: attacking other tribes, fighting them, taking their animals and selling them off. That is how we survived,” says Odong, a resident of Moroto district, in the far north-eastern Karamoja sub region.
In 2011, UNDP in partnership with the Government of Uganda through the Moroto District local government provided five bulls, 16 he-goats, five bags of maize and 15 bags of sorghum to the young men of Lotirir reformed warriors group. The animals were provided as start-up capital for the group while the cereals enabled group members to start cereal banking.
“We sold some of the animals and are now able to operate a savings scheme that provides loans to group members,” says Anthony Lokiru, the head of the group.
He adds, “we give loans of Sh 200,000 to 10 of our group members. Some of those that took the loans invested the money into agriculture and livestock farming and are expecting to reap the benefits. “Now we would like to sell the animals, get more money to boost our own businesses".
The lives of many young people in this group have significantly changed as many of them look to more productive roles in society. With the money from the savings scheme, Odong is able to buy food to feed his family and to sell off some in the market to earn a decent income legitimately without constantly putting his life at risk from cattle rustling.
"I also hope to buy my own animals and start raising them to get additional income,” he says. Odong appreciates settled life “because it has helped us to focus on our future”.
Raphael Alepe, Odong’s colleague says: “In the past we lived by force and we wanted to survive by force, but now we appreciate leading peaceful and productive lives”.
As one of the beneficiaries of the loan scheme, he has used the money to start a weaving business. “I weave clothes, drapery and other beautiful fabrics from which I get money to support my family,” he says.