Pastoralists Sell Off Cattle at Giveaway Prices as Drought Persists

4987 Views Sembabule, Uganda

In short
The most affected areas are Lugushuuru, Ntuusi, Lwemiyaga and Mawogola sub counties, which are found in the cattle corridor, but lack ground water sources.

Pastoralists in Ssembabule district have resorted to selling off their animals at giveaway prices because of lack of pasture and water resulting from the prolonged drought. They claim that the water ponds and grazing fields have dried up putting the livelihood of their animals at risk. A result, a cow weighing about 200 kilogram that was selling between 1.3 to 1.5 million shillings two months ago has dropped to as low as 800,000 shillings. A heifer below 100 kilograms now goes for between 300,000 and 450,000 shillings down from 700,000 shillings.

The prices are expected to drop further. The most affected areas are Lugushuuru, Ntuusi, Lwemiyaga and Mawogola sub counties, which are found in the cattle corridor, but lack ground water sources. Vincent Ssemakula, a pastoralist from Kakyinga village in Ntuusi Sub County says he has been forced to reduce his farm of 40 cows by a half because of his failure to access reliable water and pastures for the animals. He explains that the nearest water dam is 45 kilometers away from his farm, which requires him to hire a vehicle to ferry water, but it is too costly.

Ssemakula says the shortage of water and pasture has scared several pastoralists into selling their animals cheaply for fear of incurring huge losses. He says the output from their farm has greatly reduced because animals feed on dry grass and take very little water. Andrew Kakyunda, another pastoralist in Rugushuulu Sub County says they started selling the animals cheaply when they started dying because of walking long distances in search for water and pasture. He says more animals have now grown weaker and reduced in body sizes due to poor feeding, which has forced pastoralists to get rid of them before they die. 

Kakyunda however says that much as they have lowered the cattle prices there are only few buyers. He is worried that they risk losing more animals should the drought persists for more weeks. Besides, the shortage of pastures, Ssembabule district is grappling with a challenge of bush fires as pastoralists resort to burn the dry fields hoping to get fresh pasture. Mariam Namuju, a resident in Mawogola Sub Countysays many farm lands have deliberately been burnt with fires that are often lit in the afternoon hours.  He has asked government to intervene and set up permanent water projects to protect more animals from dying.

 Ely Muhumuza, the Ssembabule district chairperson says that much as the pastoralists are affected by the drought and need assistance, the district has no powers over natural calamities, adding that they also lack relief funds. Muhumuza says that although the district is equipped with excavator to dig valley dams, they can only act as water dam during the rain season. He suggests that government extends piped water services to the district as a permanent solution to the water crisis.  He encourages the pastoralists to dig more shallow dams to help them store water for use during drought.