Karimajong fleeing severe drought in Kotido have started to enter Agago district offering manual labour in the gardens for weeks in exchange for food items.
Their presence is most notable in Lapono, Paimol, Adilang and Omiya Pacwa sub counties.
Agago Resident District Commissioner Okwir Charles Ray says the influx started in July this year and that residents are the happiest because the Karimajong offer ‘cheap’ labour only demanding for food in return.
“If you worked for a tin of sorghum today, you possibly pick a calabash for your supper, tomorrow again you work [for] another tin, you eat part of it as you keep on saving just like the saving of [money in] a bank. You will be eating part of it but most of it you will be saving then after one week when it is in bulk you carry it and go back as you leave the rest come in. That is what they do. You collect and if it is enough for you to carry on the head with the family members because you don’t move alone, you move with family members”, Okwir says.
The Karimajong do not stay in Agago and often return to Kotido after they have accumulated enough food to take back to their dependents.
Okwir says Agago residents welcome the Karimojong because they offer cheap labour and are not aggressive like previously.
“The K’jongs that come to Agago district are no longer armed and people are very comfortable with them. They are the one providing ‘cheap’ labour. They provide ‘cheap’ labour in the gardens. They work for sorghum, they work for cassava, they work for millet. They [basically] work for any food stuff [that] they don’t have at home. In fact people want them to come now so that they get cheap labour. They are more friendly to our people these days than those days because now they are not armed.”
Before government undertook a comprehensive disarmament program in Karamoja in 2000s, the Karimajong would occasionally launch violent raids for food and cattle in Agago and other neighbouring communities.
Okwir says the Karimojong have since signed a memorandum of understanding with Agago authorities to offer them grazing land.
However, the drought has forced Karimajong, who are traditionally cattle keepers to try farming the land.
Early this week, leaders from the region reported that scores have already died of hunger in Karamoja.