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How Will Uganda’s Gold Rush Affect Its Poorest Region?
The foothills of the Moroto Mountains in northeastern Uganda are marked by hundreds of holes dug by eager villagers in search of gold. Close by, mining machinery installed by the private mining company, Jan Mangle Company Ltd., crank noisily in search of the same.

The relatively recent discovery of gold in the Karamoja region holds the potential to change the fate of the region’s pastoral communities. But whether this change will be negative or positive remains to be seen. The poorest region of Uganda, Karamoja, has been damaged by decades of violent conflict, and many in the region feel they have been neglected by the central government.

In 1980, a fifth of the Karamojong population, including 60% of infants, perished in a widespread famine that resulted in the fall of dictator Idi Amin. Conflict ensued once Karamoja’s clans looted the Moroto armory and used the weapons to ransack cattle from villages in neighboring Kenya and what is now South Sudan.

Cattle are considered among most Karamojong people to be a person’s main representation of wealth. For this reason, many of those unfortunate enough to have their cattle stolen from them during the years of conflict were prompted to begin digging and panning for gold.

Today, the region is relatively free from conflict and has returned to a state of peace and security. This is mostly due to the controversial government disarmament programs in which villages were surrounded and searched for hidden weapons by troops in the Ugandan People’s Defense Force.

The return to security has opened the door for many corporations to poke their noses into Uganda’s mineral-rich lands. In Karamoja, the foreign presence of Jan Mangle Limited has prompted mistrust among locals. It is popularly assumed that the benefits will flow toward the wealthy, leaving the poor even poorer.

“We don’t know where the gold is going to,” said one young villager. “We hear the land is sold to investors and we are afraid we will not see any benefits from the gold. They have not told us anything.”

The government of Uganda has a strong history of forcibly displacing indigenous people in order to buy up land to sell to corporations. An example is the eviction of 392 families to make way for a German coffee company in 2001 or the nearly 20,000 people evicted in 2012 to clear land for a British forestry company. In various regions of northern and central Ugandan, hundreds of families are being paid peanuts for their land that is then sold to corporations such as the AUC Mining Company and Jan Mangle Company Ltd.

Years of manipulation and neglect from the central government have lead Karamojong residents to believe the worst, and it is nearly impossible to get information on government contracts from private corporations.

But government officials such as Moroto District Commissioner Nahaman Ojwe insist that the indigenous of Karamaja will actually see two benefits from the mineral extraction. First, current landowners will receive royalties from the mining companies. Second, the wealth collected from the gold by the central government could be redistributed to the indigenous of the region.

Whether these benefits will actually be felt by the people of Karamoja will be revealed in the coming years. But for now, the villagers keep digging while the machines keep drilling in Uganda’s poorest region.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: The GuardianThe Daily MonitorThe Observer
Photo: Foundation of Life

Maasai_cattle_fever_opt

A research group in Belgium is developing a new type of vaccine against bovine malignant catarrh fever (BMCF). BMCF is a virus that kills thousands of cattle across the world and specifically has been a major problem for cattle herders in East Africa. In East Africa wildebeest carry the virus and spread the infection to cattle. The disease is often fatal and can infect up to 40% of a heard in any sporadic outbreak. The Maasai people of East Africa, who herd large numbers of cattle, have been hit hard by this disease, losing seven to ten percent of their cattle to BMCF every year.

No vaccines have been found so far, however, researchers at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s Immunology Vaccinology lab at the University of Liege, claim they have altered the BMCF virus so that it does not develop after infection. The original virus causes an uncontrollable division of white blood cells, much like cancer. In the genetically engineered virus, the researchers have managed to stop the production of the protein that leads to this uncontrollable division. Researchers exposed the new virus to rabbits who did not show signs of BMCF and were protected against any other strains of the BMCF virus they came in contact with. Research leader Benjamin Dewals claims, “…we have generated a virus that does not induce BMCF, does not persist in the infected host and protects against a subsequent infection with a virulent virus.”

This study shows promise for the future eradication the BMCF disease, however Dewals recognizes it may take 5 to 10 years to develop a vaccine for cattle specifically. George Russell, a specialist in cattle infections, states, “…such a vaccine will need to be demonstrated in cattle and the protection conferred will need to be evaluated in terms of dosage and duration of protection…” Despite the challenges that lie ahead, this discovery represents a big step forward in the effort to ultimately find a cure for this disease.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: Hope4Africa

Women Farmers Get Help From USAID Dairy ProjectPakistan’s rural economy has been growing in part due to a USAID-funded Dairy Project.  The project works to help women farmers increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods.  With the project, USAID has trained a group of 5,000 female livestock workers who are available to provide veterinary services and advice on the care and feeding of cattle.  These livestock workers are trained locally and speak the language.  Aside from providing education, the USAID project also provides supplies for animals such as feed, vitamins, and medicine.  The hope is that the USAID Dairy Project will create new jobs and improve the lifestyle of rural farmers throughout Pakistan.

Rural women farmers are a huge part of the workforce in Pakistan. One resident told of how her husband used to work but due to an illness had to quit leaving her as the sole income source for their family.  She was educated through the 12th grade and was able to get a position as one of the livestock extension workers and help both her family and her village.  The hope she will be able to bring to her children and her family is just one of the positive results of the USAID project.

The USAID Dairy Project began in July of 2011 and employs rural women with a high school diploma. They are trained in basic animal health skills and entrepreneurship.  The program has trained 2,470 unemployed women since it began and helps them to earn an average of 2,500 rupees a month. The program aims to train additional 2,530 farmers.  The USAID project has connected rural farmers to livestock experts and pharmaceutical companies and helped them gain additional knowledge and skills.  One of the women involved has been able to treat around 6,000 animals and earn 46,000 rupees. Her household is growing and she is able to reinvest in her own agricultural business.

Dairy and livestock sectors contribute around 11% to the gross domestic project (GDP) of Pakistan. The USAID Dairy Program is helping rural women contribute to the improvement of the sector and earn an income to better provide for their families.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Pakistan Observer