When the team from Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) introduced the distribution of goats and Friesian cows to the people of Karamoja, many in the community were sceptical that the breed would survive in the region’s famously harsh climate, characterised by high temperatures and shortage of grass and water.
Little did they know that the “delicate” new breed could adapt to the new environment and perhaps prove easier to rear than the local breed that requires a lot of movement in search of water and pasture.
At least that’s the experience of Mark Teko, one of the beneficiaries of Friesian cows who previously owned about 70 heads of the local breed of cattle but lost all of them two years back to cattle rustling.
Teko says his fortunes turned around when he was identified to be among the people to benefit from the OWC’s handout of dairy cattle to farmers in Karamoja.
“My friends discouraged me from accepting the cow, saying it was difficult to keep, but my wife persuaded me to take it. As we speak right now, I am the happiest man,” he said.
Teko says he gets nine litres of milk daily from the cow, of which he sells five to nearby takeaway restaurants. He then uses part of the money to pay the boys who help him collect grass for his cow and saves the balance.
Paul Lokol another beneficiary of a Friesian cow proposed that government supplies all the people of Karamoja with the improved breed of cows saying they are very simple to keep.
“I wake up in the morning, get grass for my cow soak, it in water and salt for some five minutes before I give my cow to eat,” he narrates.
He says the Karimojong would be better off with Friesians than moving up and down with hundreds of cows that have a low milk yield.
Along with Teko and Lokol, several locals have benefited from Operation Wealth Creation Program, although others didn’t get much, especially those who took up (crop) farming.
Sarah Nangiro a mother and a resident of Tapac Sub County in Moroto district, and also a recipient of an OWC dairy cow said Friesian cows were easy to maintain, although she worried that they would be easy to raid (by cattle rustlers) since they cannot run as fast as the local breed.