Legislators subscribing to the Greater North Parliamentary Group have launched a campaign aimed at lobbying government come up with a policy that will ensure value addition to cattle products.
The Mps also want the policy to prevent what they called exploitation of cattle keepers during the sale of their animals.
According to MPs Samson Lokeris for Dodoth County East and MP Sam Okuonzi for Vurra, while cattle keeping is a huge economic activity for many Ugandans, the lack of a policy to regulate among other things the sale of cows has reduced the relevance of a cow and its products.
Lokeris says government has not given any direction to pastoralists in the country so as to change their lifestyles. While speaking to journalists at Parliament on Friday, Lokeris expressed concern that although the cow is regarded by the pastoralists as a source of wealth, the cattle keepers have continued in poverty citing the Karimojong who he says cannot up to now afford basics.
Lokeris says through their greater north parliamentary forum, the MPs will strive to wake government up to ensure a policy is in place so as to foster value addition and non exploitation by cattle buyers.
MP Okuonzi who doubles as chairperson of the group, says once a policy is in place, it will ease movement of cows from one place to another in search of grass and water unlike today when certain communities develop conflicts as a result of suspicious motives.
If developed with massive consultations from relevant stakeholders, Okuonzi says the policy will also put up relevant guidelines to follow in the process of moving and accessing resources like pasture and water without any conflicts arising from suspecting communities.
The co-coordinator of the greater North Parliamentary group, George Odongo, says the lack of policy has led to exploitation of the pastoralists while selling their cows. He says unlike in Tanzania where a cow is weighed to determine its price before being sold, in Uganda a big cow currently in Karamoja can fetch as low as shs40,000 due to the ongoing hunger situation.
Odongo says selling a cow at that low price after investing so much in feeding it is exploitation which can only be avoided with a policy in place.
The greater north parliamentary group draws together MPs from the traditional districts of Teso, Karamoja, Acholi, Lango, Bugisu, West Nile and Bukedi.
According to the National Livestock Census 2008, at least 1.7 million households in Uganda or 26.1% of the total households in the country own cattle. The national cattle herd was estimated to be 11.4 million cattle. Western, eastern and central Uganda each had a population of about 2.5 million cattle, followed by Karamoja sub-region with 2.3 million. The rest of northern Uganda had 1.6 million.