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Uganda and Kenya agree on animal health coordination in border areas
Singing, clapping and jumping – men, women and children from the Pokot and Turkana communities celebrated the agreement between Kenya and Uganda to coordinate efforts to improve animal health in their border areas. Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 24th of April 2013 during a colorful ceremony at a cross border market near Moroto Town, in Karamoja, Uganda.
Located only 15 kilometers from the border with Kenya, the market is a symbolic place. Pastoralists from Kenya and Uganda meet to trade in livestock and livestock commodities. In search of pastures and water sources or better services, thousands of families frequently cross the border with their cattle and goats, their primary source of livelihood.
But most countries in Eastern Africa lack coordination of their animal health programmes while legal and policy frameworks are disharmonized. As a result effectiveness of disease control is often low. The MoU is an important step forward in creating an enabling environment where practical challenges faced by pastoralists like Cholima Logit can be addressed. As a member of the Pokot community Cholima lives near Moroto town. ‘I own five goats and five cows,’ he says. ‘Our biggest fear is when animal diseases spread across the district and borders. We never have enough access to drugs for our animals.’
Issues like these could be addressed once the Memorandum of Understanding is translated into concrete measures. Kenya and Uganda are committed to coordinating investments in the districts and creating better access to services for pastoralists. Disease control activities will be synchronized while information will be shared. Movement of goods and mobility of people and livestock across the border will be regulated. As a result local trade will be stimulated while resilience of local communities is further strengthened.
The MoU bridges the gap between the needs of the Pokot and Turkana communities and implemented policies. Technical officers on the ground, led by the NGO ACTED with funding from ECHO, initiated the agreement pursing practical options for coordination in order to better serve the local communities. With help from the EU-funded Regional initiative in support of vulnerable pastoralists and agropastoralists in the Horn Africa (RISPA) initiative, cross-border animal health coordination was moved up the political agenda.
‘Since independency pastoral communities have asked for assistance to improve animal health but high-level political commitment was missing. That has finally changed,’ IGAD’s Executive Secretary H.E Ambassador (Eng.) Mahboub M. Maalim, guest of honour at the ceremony, underlines. ‘The signing of the agreement is a true milestone we are privileged to witness.’
The political environment had changed after the devastating drought that hit the Horn of Africa in 2011 and which affected over 10 million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. After the drought, governments spearheaded initiatives to increase resilience of vulnerable communities in arid and semi-arid areas. To end drought emergencies, IGAD recently launched the IGAD Regional Drought Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI). It is envisaged that the MoU will be operationalized through the IDDRSI investment programmes.
‘IGAD foresees this agreement as the beginning of enhanced cross-border collaboration, and we hope Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan will soon follow suit,’ IGAD’s Executive Secretary H.E Ambassador (Eng.) Mahboub M. Maalim concludes. ‘We cannot stop droughts from happening, but with the implementation of agreements like these, droughts should no longer have to lead to disasters.’