UNDERSTANDING THE SPATIO-TEMPORAL VARIATION OF BROWSE FORAGE IN KARAMOJA
BENON, NABAASA BAGUMA
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ABSTRACT In the North Eastern Karamoja region of Uganda like elsewhere on the continent, livestock entirely depend on free ranging for pasture, browse and water. Although the Karamojong have evolved a resilient robust system of livestock management, the recent decades have seen significant alterations in the landscape which has affected livestock productivity and diminished the Karamojong resilience options. Even with such significant alterations of the Karamoja landscape, unlike cows, the little explored browsers, probably because of their evolutionary advantage have proved resilient thereby becoming the Karamojong lifeline in unfavourable conditions. Therefore, understanding of the dynamics of browse forage in the region would not only provide planning information but also make maiden steps towards the appreciation and acknowledgement of the role browsers and browse forage can play in national, regional and global food production. It’s against this background that this study set out to; map browse forage distribution in Karamoja, quantify and establish its stocking rate for a cross-sectional period of 30 years. The study employed remotely sensed data together with field measurements and surveys to study browse forage based on the slowly transitioning Karamoja seasons of Akamu (dry), Akiceret (post-dry), Akiporo (pre-wet), and Atieth (wet). Field measurements and coefficients were used to quantify browse forage which when merged with browsers populations were used to calculate stocking rate. Results indicate a general increase in the area covered by browse forage from an average of 8000 km2 in the dry season (Akamu) to approximately 17000 km2 in the wet season (Atieth) for all the six selected years. Across the years there was a gradual decline from around 6500 km2 in 1987 to approximately 4500 km2 in 2016. Browse forage quantity also displayed increase from 56 tonnes/ha in the dry season (Akamu) to 139 tonnes/ha in the wet season (Atieth). Across years, browse forage quantity declined from 56 tonnes/ha to in 1987 to around 37 tonnes/ha in 2016 of the same season (Akamu). Stocking rate also shows an increase across seasons from around 10 goats/ha in the dry season (Akamu) to approximately 60 goats/ha in the wet season (Atieth). This study underscores the need to have weather forecast tailored to the four locally known seasons in Karamoja instead of the two conventional dry and wet seasons as used by the Uganda National Meteorological Association (UNMA). The study also emphasises the need to have more focus and appreciation on browse forage in the National rangelands policy and plan.