Uganda: Karamoja and the Karamojong


©EU/ECHO/Martin Karimi

Karamoja is a region in North-Eastern Uganda.  Its 27,000 square kilometres of land is comprised of savannah and bush.  Rain is a rare occurrence, with less than 800mm a year falling on the arid plains.  Some 956,000 people live in Karamoja, with over a third of them belonging to the Karamojong ethnic group.

The Karamojong are semi-pastoral herders, traveling between food and water sources with their cattle, sheep, and goats for up to a third of the year.  Cattle are extremely important to the Karamojong.  Every part of the animal is used, with blood and milk used as food, fat used as food and cosmetic, urine as cleanser, and droppings as fertilizer.  Notably, meat is conserved in preference for using products from the animals that can be obtained without killing.  Meat from the animal is only eaten during certain ceremonies, or if the animal otherwise dies.

In more permanent settlements, women practice agriculture.  Their main crop is sorghum, though other crops (gourds, cucumber, millet, beans) are also grown.  Due to the harsh nature of the environment in Karamoja, agriculture takes a backseat in importance to the Karamojong, and herding is preferred.

Karamojong society is organized generationally, with older generations having authority over the younger.  The eldest have the most authority when it comes to settling public disputes, holding meetings, or performing public rituals.

Stay tuned for a post on a large problem in Kampala – Karamojong street children.



Uganda: Overview


Photo credit: ©FAO/Matthias Mugisha

In North America, we often don’t hear any details about African countries.  Shamefully, either on the news or by word-of-mouth, news about goings-on in most countries in Africa are waved away as being distant, or irrelevant.  I would love to be able to bring a little more focus, and context, to countries I am exposed to through their citizens.

Uganda is a land-locked country, situated between South Sudan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Lake Victoria.  Its climate is tropical and wet, and its land fertile.

The population of Uganda is approximately 38 million, with 2 million people living in the capital, Kampala.  Ugandan families are large, with the fertility rate sitting at 5.8 children per woman.  This is in contrast to the reported desired number of children for Ugandan women (1-2).  An explanation for this is the contraception prevalence rate for the country: 30%.  The population is very young, with a median age of 15.7 years.

For health and healthcare, Uganda performs poorly.  28,200 people died from complications of HIV/AIDS in 2015, and 7% of the population is living with it currently.  At birth, the life expectancy for the entire population (male and female) is 55.4 years.  For the population, the density of physicians is very, very low, at 0.15 physicians per 1000 people in 2005.  Infectious disease rate is very high, with bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid fever being very prevalent.  On the upside, the adult obesity rate in Uganda is sitting at 3.9% – much improved over Canada’s 30.1%!

Uganda is gifted with fertile land.  Along with mineral deposits, Ugandan soil has excellent quality for crops.  40% of the population works in agriculture.  Coffee is a main export (side note: Starbucks has recently caught onto this, with a release of a small-lot coffee blend, “Sipi Falls” from the slopes of Mount Elgon).  50% of the population works in the service industry.  10% of exports go to Rwanda.

The country is currently attempting to handle a large influx of refugees from South Sudan, the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, and Rwanda.  These refugees fled their homelands due to fighting between government and rebel forces (Lord’s Resistance Army).  More on this to come.

Despite Uganda’s troubles, there are many beacons of hope in the country, and many bright minds working to improve things for all.  Stay tuned for another post on some of these.


Welcome to my blog

Hello, and welcome.

The purpose of this blog is to report on some of the things I’ve learned about other countries in the world through international chat sites like Interpals.  I talk to citizens of other countries, and do research to see what they’re up to – in context.

I will also occasionally post about languages I’m dabbling in, as a way to assist my learning.

About myself:

I am a 24 year old coffee shop worker living in Alberta, Canada.  Work life isn’t really interesting, but I try to make my mental life as lively as I can by learning as much as possible about the world surrounding me.