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Enhancing water availability for improving livelihoods in Karamoja region, Uganda

By Gerald Kairu, GWPEA and Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira, Office of the Prime Minister-Uganda

The Horn of Africa (HOA) countries comprising of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda is characterised by drought which is known to have significant impacts of all natural disasters. Droughts affect people’s livelihoods and economic opportunities. Moreover, the livelihoods of most people in the HOA especially in the Arid and Semi-arid land (ASALs) depends on rain‐fed agriculture, pastoralism and natural resources. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that in 2011, over 12 million people were severely affected by the occurrence of a catastrophic drought that caused the most severe food crisis ever in the past 60 years.

The Global Water Partnership Eastern Africa (GWPEA) is coordinating the Integrated Drought Management Program in the Horn of Africa (IDMP HOA) with the aim of promoting drought resilience of countries, communities and ecosystems.  The IDMP HOA programme is collaborating with HOA countries to document lessons and good practices from selected case studies in drought/water security related interventions. The case studies offer an opportunity to learn and share innovations that can be replicated in other areas in the HOA region.  One such case study that has been documented together with the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda is Enhancing water availability for improving livelihoods in Karamoja region, Uganda”.

Karamoja is one of the water stressed, dryland sub-region in north-east Uganda. Its infrastructure including water infrastructure is underdeveloped, and it also faces climate variability and climate change. Prolonged droughts and shifts in weather result in low agricultural productivity and declining rural production systems resulting in negative consequences on people’s livelihoods. Karamoja performs poorly on development indicators: 76% of its population lives under the poverty line, compared to 23% at national level while malnutrition is around 37%.

To improve the livelihood situation of the people in the Karamoja sub-region, the Karamoja Livelihoods Programme (KALIP) was conceived. The programme was funded under the 11th European Development Fund, and implemented from July 2010 to March 2015 by the Office of the Prime Minister.

This case study sought to comprehensively map the activities and approaches of implementing water infrastructure in result 1 of KALIP which aimed at building productive assets through labour intensive works and injecting capital into the local economy. The study also explored the use and management of water infrastructure and financial practices. The study involved stakeholders who participated in project implementation.

KALIP built various water infrastructure including valley tanks, valley dams, micro dams, village ponds, rock catchments, sub surface dams, rain water jars and boreholes using labour intensive works and direct labour. The cash helped members to meet household needs and also promoted saving culture through training in financial literacy. The water sources provided water during the long dry seasons which reduced loss of livestock that often occurred as livestock trekked long distances in search of water and pastures. Availability of water also reduced disease incidences. Water User Committees were established and trained to ensure the water sources are maintained.

One of key lessons was that for any sustainability of water infrastructure, it is necessary that the community and the local governments agree on the maintenance plans. Secondly, cash for work activities are important tools to induce Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) activities. Finally, the participation of communities greatly contributed to the ownership of the water infrastructures and consequently enhanced community resilience to drought.

Figure 1. Excavation of valley tank by Labour Intensive Works (Photo credit: KALIP Project, Uganda)