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- This FEWS NET Enhanced Market Analysis (EMA) report presents findings to inform regular market monitoring and analysis in the Karamoja subregion of Uganda. This report was prepared concurrently with a national Market Fundamentals Report for Uganda. Among other uses, the information presented jointly in these two reports can be used to support the design of food security programs, including but not limited to informing a U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bellmon determination in advance of an FY 2017 USAID Community Development Fund-supported (CDF) development food assistance program in the Karamoja subregion.
- This study is based on 1) desk research, 2) fieldwork using rapid rural appraisal (RRA) techniques covering all seven districts of the Karamoja subregion as well as neighboring districts that are essential to local trade and the distribution of humanitarian assistance, and 3) a three-day stakeholder consultation workshop carried out in Moroto Town Center during the month of August 2016.
- Karamoja is structurally deficit in terms of staple food availability. This deficit exists despite efforts in recent years by government and many international organizations to reduce pre-existing structural deficits in staple food production by supporting a transition from pastoral to agriculture-based livelihoods concurrently and following local disarmament. Many donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), however, continue to support livestock activities. Food availability in Karamoja is determined by a combination of imports from neighboring surplus-producing areas of Uganda and local production, although important commodity-specific and geographic differences exist.
- Located in the northeastern part of Uganda, Karamoja is the least developed area in the country. Today, its three main livelihood systems are agricultural, agropastoral, and pastoral. Poverty and marginalization, poor infrastructure, conflict, insecurity, drought, and periodic food shortages afflicted the area for decades. Food assistance (food-for-work and school feeding, among others) plays an important role in meeting local food requirements for much of the population in Karamoja.
- Despite the presence of structural food gaps at both the micro and macro levels in Karamoja, the FEWS NET assessment found that, by many measures, markets perform well. An analysis of trade flow patterns and price co-movement suggeststhat markets within Karamoja are relatively well integrated with neighboring surplusproducing areas. Traders report being able to respond quickly to increased demand. Relatively low effective demand in Karamoja limits the extent to which the private sector can fill the local food gap.
- The region comprises Kaabong, Kotido, Abim, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, and Amudat districts. Environmental conditions vary within the region,making some areas better suited for agricultural production and livestock rearing than others. The majority of land cover is characterized as “grassland” and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomalies are pervasive. In contrast to the rest of the country, Karamoja has only one agricultural season due to its unimodal rainfall pattern, which runs from April through September. The peak of the lean season is between May and July. Low, erratic, and poorly distributed rainfall and pest/disease infestation are the most relevant threats to agricultural production within the region.
- Livestock production is more preponderant than crop production given the more favorable conditions for pasture growth and development (unimodal rainfall, drier ecosystem, frequently erratic rainfall patterns). Nonetheless, production of main staples including maize, sorghum, millet, dry beans, and oilseeds takes place, but at very low levels compared to other areas in Uganda, in both aggregate and per capita terms. Other crops such as groundnuts, cassava, and sweet potatoes are also produced at a low scale. The region is Uganda’s main cultivation area for sorghum and millet. The generally low crop output is contrasted with the region’s high livestock production. In fact, the Karamoja subregion is the main livestock-producing area in the country and supplies other regions in Uganda and South Sudan. Karamoja is also a transit area for Kenyan cattle moving into those same areas via the “Cattle Corridor” that runs from Turkana (Kenya) to central Uganda. Pastoralists rely on livestock rearing as a source of livelihoods and savings. In times of hardship, livestock are sold to access the resources needed to cover households’ immediate needs. Poor households sell livestock at critical periods of the year when household expenditures are greatest (lean season and when school fees are due).
- Two marketing basins cover the northern and the southern areas of the region and engage in trade with South Sudan, Kenya, and the rest of Uganda. The northernmostmarketing basin is linked with the high-production areas of Gulu and Lira, while the southernmostmarketing basin is linked with Soroti. The degree of integration of marketing between Karamoja and the rest of the country is greaterbetween areas with better road access. Transactions are based on cash, although some banks and village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) are available in Karamoja.
- It is often reported that agricultural prices are “high” in Karamoja. A review of secondary data from Farmgain and the World Food Programme (WFP)suggeststhat the dynamic is much more nuanced. For example, when comparing maize prices in Soroti and Gulu (two main areas that serve the Karamoja subregion) with prices in Karamoja, both the mean price levels and the coefficient of variation are similar. Prices across Uganda are highly seasonal, and prices in the Karamoja subregion are no exception.
- Three main types of markets operate in Karamoja: District town center and primary markets that are easily accessible and where the quantities traded are relatively large; and smaller,more isolated secondary markets where the quantities traded are lower. Secondary markets can be highly seasonal in nature and operate only very briefly (for only a few hours) at strategic points of the year, particularly the harvest and postharvest period when local producers sell their crops, and during the lean season when small trucks travel into more isolated areas of the region with foodstuffs for sale.
- The local indigenous populations in Karamoja play a role in agricultural marketing, but more as “contextual actors” rather than directly engaging in agricultural and livestock trade as a livelihood source. This includes local elders, who are important in more general terms to local governance systems. Women are more likely than local men to participate in agricultural commodity trade, while men play a dominant role in livestock.
- The Karamoja subregion has long received external assistance. Most recently, the focus transitioned from assuring emergency needs in a conflict setting to seeking to develop and strengthen local livelihoods in a relatively stable context. Many activities focused on building resilience, but efforts to introduce improved agricultural practices and support agriculture-based economic growth and development are seen as incongruent with the local context.
- Market-based food assistance modalities have had mixed experiences in Karamoja. WFP is the most experienced institution in Uganda (and arguably the world) with regard to local commodity procurement and distribution. WFP Uganda was not available to meet with the FEWS NET assessment team for a meaningful technical discussion on local procurement efforts; however, information from distribution officers, industry stakeholders, and secondary sourcessuggeststhat WFP has little or no difficultly procuring and subsequently distributing required quantities of maize, maize flour, dry beans, and edible oil from within Uganda. No empirical evidence suggests inflationary impacts arising from those purchases. During the current round of USAID Title II programs, Mercy Corps, with support from World Vision,rolled out a seed voucher program in the northern districts of Karamoja. The program experienced difficulties with beneficiaries wanting seeds other than the improved ones stipulated in the program design. Low levels of literacy among vendors presented challenges. Lastly, the program shifted midway from a paper voucher to an electronic redemption and payment system. The Government of Uganda-funded Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) cash transfer program was also rolled out in southern Karamoja (see Chapter 5). Reliable mobile phone coverage presented difficulties, as did the lack of cash and pay points.
- Market-based modality feasibility is largely determined by the local enabling environment. In Karamoja:
- Agricultural trade is complicated by the poor road network (and high transport costs) and localized insecurity. During the rainy season many roads are impassable, a situation that contributes to further isolation of many communities.
- Although the security situation has improved and is now characterized as “relative peace,” localized instances of theft and cattle rustling persist. These events are generally on a small scale, even targeting specific households or individuals rather than entire communities. The memory and perception of insecurity discourage trade and marketing activities in some areas (Kaabong in particular).
- Two mobile phone companies are ubiquitous in Karamoja (Mobile Telephone Networks [MTN] and Airtel), with only a few subcounties where service is poor due to relatively mountainous terrain. The adoption and use of mobile phone technology and services are far more intensive among traders than among poor households.
- Humanitarian storage facilities in Karamoja subregion and elsewhere in Uganda are largely viewed as adequate to support current program and project needs, but private storage options within Karamoja are limited.
Source: FEWS NET