Pastoral and environmental network in the horn of Africa (Penha) Uganda

Pastoral and environmental network in the horn of Africa (Penha) Uganda

Elizabeth KATUSHABE

Climate Frontlines Partner, Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA-Uganda)

The Bahima pastoralists’ own knowledge of forecasting weather and climate, and their observations of, and potential solutions to environmental change, is important for developing strategies that will help this specific community and other pastoralist communities to respond and adapt to climate change and reduce environmental degradation.

The Bahima are an ethnic pastoral group of Ankole tribe of Uganda. They have a lot of indigenous knowledge about weather forecasting which in the past they used to read the weather, forecast rain and drought. This knowledge was used to guide their day to day activities and it was very important for their sustainable livelihood but has been eroded by foreign influence.

Bahima appreciate that there is environmental degradation and climate change and they have indigenous potential solutions to these challenges. If well documented, their knowledge can be used to develop strategies that will help these herders to respond and adapt to climate change and reduce environmental degradation. 

Their forecasting knowledge include reading the clouds, the winds and nature (sprouting of vegetation and flowers, movement of insects and birds and personal physical/body experiences) to forecast the coming of the rains or drought seasons.  For example the dark clouds, birds flying high in the sky, feeling hot at night, flowering of plants and winds blowing from North West were signs of the coming rains.

When herders saw mist, felt chilly at night, saw clear skies, withering of plants, shedding of tree leaves; these were signs of coming/present dry season.

There also notice a change in; weather patterns (longer dry spells, rains causing floods), in the vegetation in the area (all indigenous and useful trees and grass) is almost gone and in water availability and amounts.

There is also restricted movement of their livestock because of reforms in land use. They have therefore been forced to change their nomadic lifestyle to sedentary lifestyles. And government regulations stop them from practicing traditional methods like grass burning (okwootsya ensi - oruhiira) and this is very harmful to their livelihoods. 

Acaricides used in tick control have destroyed/killed off the bees and therefore there is reduction in wild honey in their areas. There is significant environmental degradation resulting from tree cutting, charcoal burning, poor plastic trash disposal, road gulleys and flooding.

They have adapted to these changes by being more sedentary, fencing off of their land, building semi-permanent houses , building valley tanks/dams for water, clearing of bushes, selling off of indigenous Ankole longhorn breed and replacing them with cross breeds which produce more milk and many other strategies.

Pastoralists do not trust the accuracy of the meteorologists. They perceive that the scientists just guess because at times what the scientists predict does not happen.

The herders appreciate that their indigenous knowledge has limitations but still believe that their indigenous knowledge of forecasting weather would be very useful if scientists would agree to come to them and they share the knowledge. They argue that the indigenous knowledge is very more reliable because they have been living in the area for many years and therefore know more about it.

 

Bionote

I was born and brought up among the Ankole Long Horn Cattle (ALHC) keeping Bahima community of Uganda. I am a member of the Ankole Cow Conservation Association (ACCA) which is campaigning for ways to ensure that this great indigenous breed does not get extinct. I own 50 pure Ankole Long Horn Cattle which I graze on family land in Kijumba, Ngoma Sub county in Nakaseke district of the central part of the Cattle corridor of Uganda. .

With the use of the LIFE method, I supported some Ankole Long Horn Cattle herders of Nyabushozi County, Kiruhura District to document the Ankole Long Horn breed.

I graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) in Social Sciences (Political Science and Public Administration). I also have a Diploma in Secondary School Education and a Certificate in Management. I have been working in development work since 1994 and this has enabled me to participate in several development activities and trainings especially related to gender and pastoralism issues.

I am the Projects Officer (Volunteer) with Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) – Uganda, an NGO mainly concerned about the future of pastoralists and determined to find strategies and advocate for policies for the improvement of their quality of life. In Uganda, PENHA focuses on social –economic empowerment of pastoral and agro-pastoralist women.

 I have traveled around, lived and worked in different parts of Uganda, parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. I have interacted with other stakeholders in small scale livestock keeping and pastoralism and agro-pastoralism. I have interacted with individuals e.g. Veterinarians, ethno medicine Scientists, politicians, development workers and organizations e.g. the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Keeping (LPP), Endogenous Livestock Development (ELD) and LIFE Network. This has helped me to appreciate the importance of small scale livestock keeping and pastoralism in sustainable livestock development, food security, conserving biodiversity, social-economic development and livelihood improvement.

Currently I represent the Natural Livestock Farming (NLF) Network in Uganda. NLF is an international collaboration aiming to strengthen global expertise on natural ways of livestock keeping. Combined experience on herbal products, animal management, local breeds and biodiversity conservation provides a viable strategy towards good quality animal products while saving antibiotics for our future.

I am a partner with the UNESCO’s project “Knowing Our Changing Climate in Africa” whereby I carried out a study and produced a report on; “The Bahima Pastoralists’ own knowledge of weather and climate, their forecasting skills, and their observations of and potential solutions to environmental change.; A case study of Bahima pastoralists from Noma, Kinyogoga and Kinoni sub counties of Nakaseke district in the cattle corridor of Uganda.

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