Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2021

World Food Day

Doctor Merisia

“When pastoralists lose their livestock, their only source of livelihood, it can be very devastating…We must help them keep all their animals healthy before crossing to Uganda for pasture and trade.”
13/07/2021

Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda 

Dr Merisia is a household name in the Greater Karamoja Cluster (GKC), an area of land that straddles the borders between South-Western Ethiopia, North-Western Kenya, South-Eastern South Sudan, and North-Eastern Uganda. Having served as the chief of Veterinary Services in West Pokot Count for many years, he is known for his informative community radio programmes and is a standard fixture at local cattle crushes, where he vaccinates and treats various animal health concerns. 

Cross border coordination of livestock health, movements and natural resource sharing among pastoralists has been central to FAO’s work in the GKC over the last decade. FAO’s efforts have helped to achieve a lasting and peaceful balance in among communities in this regard. Potential conflicts are prevented before they erupt, while the local governments are able to better coordinate livestock health services. 

Cross border livestock coordination and natural resource sharing builds on traditional pastoral resource sharing mechanisms. In 2013, FAO facilitated an agreement between Kenya and Uganda. This enabled a 2014 district level agreement between West Pokot County (Kenya) and the District of Amudat (Uganda) which allowed Kenyan veterinary officers to serve livestock at cross border points into Amudat. 

As a result of the agreement, Dr Merisia has improved animal health work in the area. Under his watch, millions of heads of livestock have been and continue to be treated across the border. 

“Animals are now healthy. They have good body conditions and are fetching good market prices. This has really helped the pastoralists who rely on them for their livelihood.”  

While disease outbreaks still occur, pastoralists are now confident that quick testing will be carried out, once reported, with treatment following soon after.  

“When pastoralists lose their livestock, their only source of livelihood, it can be very devastating. They have no food, no money, and they suffer malnutrition. We must help them keep all their animals healthy before crossing to Uganda for pasture and trade.” 

Dr Merisia notes with some relief that peace continues to prevail.  

”People have now stopped cattle rustling and realised that peace is very important. They are not willing to lose the benefits of peace.’ 

FAO’s Karamoja Cluster cross border project is one of the winning best practices selected by Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Programme. The project and Doctor Merisia feature in a new 360 film that features at the world exposition in October 2021. 

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