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Climate change: “a challenge but an opportunity” for the Karamajong people of North-Eastern Uganda

18 March 2008

At MRG’s global launch of State of the World’s Minorities in London, David Pulkol – a Karamajong leader – spoke movingly of how global warming is already beginning to impact his fragile community.

Hunger is becoming common for the Karamajong, as drought cycles accelerate. Photo: David Mzee

Hunger is becoming common for the Karamajong, as drought cycles accelerate.
David Pulkol

“The land is drier. Rivers are not flowing, like they used to. There are more diseases for cattle and people. Droughts are more frequent.

People used to be able to predict and interpret signs in the environment, when to do what: flowers or particular species of trees used to signal beginning of the dry season, so too did the behaviour of the wild animals or the birds.

Climate change is silent but violent. If the environment which is the source of the Karamajong knowledge starts to change, then the Karamajong will be rootless. It is in their interest to protest the environment.

In trying to come up with adaptation plans of action or mitigation plans, it’s important to harness local knowledge, and integrate it into national plans. Central government doesn’t understand the Karamajong knowledge base, and don’t benefit from the knowledge.

“If the environment starts to change, then the Karamajong will be rootless.”

We are already migrating out of Karamoja. Girls are sold, or found begging on the streets of Kampala, Busia, Mbale, Jinja.

What is the future? This creates a challenge but also opportunities. We are an interested party in halting global warming. But we have to have the capacity and the means to do something.

It is a mutally re-inforcing action, with international, national and local initiatives which are needed.”

Find out more about the Karamajong in the World’s Directory of Minority and Indigenous Peoples.