Uganda: Karamoja and the Karamojong

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©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.


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