Pastoralist commons management in Karamoja, Uganda
The article “Changes in pastoralist commons management and their implications in Karamoja (Uganda)” by Zuzana Filipová and Nadia Johanisova, published in the Journal of Political Ecology 24: 881–900 (2017), analyses the shift from traditional to current pastoral practices and diversification of livelihoods of the Jie group of the Karimojong in Kotido District, Uganda. Focusing on land-use changes, it examines factors that forced the Karimojong to abandon a mobile lifestyle and to adopt new income-generating activities, including charcoal- and brick-making, which may have detrimental effects on local forest and soil cover.
The interviews and focus group discussions conducted in 2012 confirmed the superiority of traditional pastoralist practices in terms of safeguarding sustained productivity of pastures, compared to the current situation. An important factor leading to current unsustainable practice involved the mass acquisition of firearms by the Karimojong in the 1970s and ’80s, violent cattle raiding and subsequent unequal disarmament and establishment of army-controlled cattle herding. This radical enclosure of the commons by the government, linked to impoverishment of many pastoralist households in terms of cattle, obliged the Jie to seek new, but potentially environmentally detrimental, sources of livelihood. The escalation of the firearm crisis cannot be seen in isolation from a century of commons enclosure by colonial and postcolonial governments, restricting traditional practices and leading to insecurity and impoverishment of the Karimojong. The situation is exacerbated by current policies of the Ugandan Government, geared to sedentary crop farming, which may be unsustainable given the local natural and climatic conditions.