- A major innovation for Africa's many arid and semi-arid is to be tested in the troubled region called the Karamoja Cluster; the border area between Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia. Water harvesting techniques are to be developed and taught throughout this drought prone region.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - which is the regional development organisation that covers the seven countries of the Horn of Africa - is now launching a water harvesting pilot project for the "Karamoja Cluster". The project this week secured financing from the African Development Fund (ADF).
According to ADF, the project aims to "increase food security in the IGAD region thanks to the setting up of a feasible, viable and sustainable community-based water-harvesting program in these arid and semi-arid areas." Over 60 percent of the IGAD region is arid or semi-arid and is prone to droughts that often lead to catastrophic famines.
The pilot project is set up in the troubled "Karamoja Cluster" - a term that describes the pastoral and agro-pastoral ethnic groups, most of whom share a common language, culture, and land area encompassing north-eastern Uganda, north-western Kenya, south-eastern Sudan and south-western Ethiopia.
The drylands of the Karamoja Cluster, like many arid to semi-arid lands of Africa, have a diversity of ecosystems tuned to a seasonal but highly variable pattern of rainfall, according to a recent USAID report.
Access to resources, primarily pasture for livestock and water for human and animal consumption, is closely linked to the scarce and unpredictable access to water. This limited resource has also made the region a herd of conflicts, often originating from cattle theft and raiding.
The water harvesting pilot project is to be a first step to "the formulation of a pragmatically oriented and down-to-earth approach geared to contribute to the enhancement of water availability in that drought prone region," according to the project's description.
It aims to sensitise the beneficiaries about water harvesting techniques given that the most critical constraint to food security in this region is lack of water for crop and livestock production. Moreover, the situation is rendered more delicate as the water resources of the area are shared by pastoral communities in the border areas of the four countries.
The pilot project is to "involve the communities concerned through a participative process based on demonstration, sensitisation, training and reinforcement of the technical skills of the beneficiaries," the description reads. The local stakeholders are thus to "take part in the identification of constraints, the definition and the selection of potential solutions concerning water availability."
The pilot project hopes to contribute to a reduction of the possibilities for conflicts among communities, often brought about by unavailability of water for livestock. It is also to attempt to capture and reverse natural resource degradation in an arid and semi-arid environment. In addition, it aims at contributing to "foster development at a regional or trans-boundary level."
The Karamoja Cluster has been a region of almost constant conflicts, very much related to the scarcity of water. According to a USAID report, cattle raiding to restock herds decimated by natural disasters is an almost institutionalised part of traditional survival strategies in the region.
- Today, however, violence in the Karamoja Cluster has reached unprecedented proportions, the report says, "it has changed in nature, scale, and dimension due to a number of factors, including: the proliferation of automatic weapons, government policies of neglect and interference for political gain, high youth unemployment, increased demand for and decreased productivity of land, a long term pattern of desiccation, and reduced respect for traditional rules governing cattle raiding and warfare."
Additionally, the Karamoja Cluster encompasses the most remote areas of all the four countries; Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia. It further is affected by two brutal and long-lasting civil wars - in Southern Sudan and in Northern Uganda - and hosts a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons.
The total cost of the pilot project is estimated at $US 1.69 million. A grant of $US 1.58 million by the ADF - given this week - will represents 93 percent of the total pilot project costs. The IGAD member governments will contribute another 4 percent of total cost, while the beneficiaries of the pilot project will also contribute 3 percent of total project costs.
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