Cooperatives & Communities

Balaalo blamed for frustrating commercial cattle production in northern Uganda

GULU- Members of Gulu Meat Producers Cooperative Society say the presence of Balaalo in Gulu and other parts of the northern region is frustrating the commercial production of livestock there.

According to Walter Okello, the cooperative’s chairperson, the influx of Balaalo in the region has led to persistent cattle disease outbreaks which have caused losses to some farmers.

“They are bringing cattle diseases like foot and mouth disease [FMD]. Even as we speak, our neighbours in Amuru district are under quarantine because of the outbreak of the disease [FMD]. This means farmers cannot sell their cattle right now,” Okello told this reporter last week.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries in February this year, imposed a temporary quarantine on Lakang and Pogo sub-counties in Amuru district following reported cases of FMD there.

Okello also said that there are tight restrictions on farmers who want to bring breeding animals into the district yet Balaalo cross freely with their cattle.

“Our member farmers face challenges in bringing breeding animals into the region. They are not allowed to cross freely at Karuma but Balaalo come and cross,” Okello whose cooperative is a member of Uganda Meat Producers Cooperative Union [UMPCU]," said.

The chairperson further said cases of cattle thefts have increased with the coming of Balaalo in northern region.

Interviewed for this story, Alfred Opiyo, the Gulu district veterinary officer, said there is a need to change mindset of the locals to embrace commercial cattle production.

“Our farmers are very contented with what they have. You will find someone keeping just one zebu cow and does not want to change even if you advise them to cross breed, improve or multiply the breed,” Opiyo said.

He however, said that under the Parish Development Model[PDM], the veterinary department is embarking on mindset change so that locals in the district embrace commercial livestock production.

Beef and dairy are some of the priority commodities farmers are being encouraged to engage under PDM.

The Balaalo have also been blamed for increasing land conflict and insecurity in the Acholi sub-region, even though it is reported some land owners in the area willingly hire out their land to the Balaalo.

Over 40,000 head of cattle belonging to Balaalo are reportedly in the sub-region despite several attempts to evict them following directives by President Yoweri Museveni.

On November 2, 2021, President Museveni issued a two-month ultimatum to the Balaalo herdsmen to vacate northern Uganda or face forcible eviction and prosecution.

In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Museveni described the herdsmen as illegal migrants whose animals remain a persistent problem to the farming communities in the north, specifically the Acholi region.

To implement this directive, Museveni said then that he had appointed a three-man committee comprising Gen David Muhoozi, Col [rtd] Charles Okello Engola and Col Bright Rwamirama.

In the letter, Museveni stated that the herdsmen did not follow the procedures involved to move their animals to the north noting that their illegal activities were tainting the image of the National Resistance Movement NRM.

Museveni first issued a directive on the matter On October 24, 2017, where he directed the army and the Agriculture ministry to evict the Balaalo from northern Uganda.

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