Pastoralists panic as Moroto’s multi-billion water dam dries up

Camels taking water on the water trap in Kobebe water dam in Moroto
Camels taking water on the water trap in Kobebe water dam in Moroto on Sunday, 31st January 2021. Courtesy Photo

Moroto, Uganda | URN | Karimojong and Kenyan Turkana Pastoralists in Moroto district are currently gripped with panic of possible death of their livestock following the fall of water levels in the giant Kobebe dam.

Kobebe water dam located about 50km from Moroto town in Moroto district was re-constructed by the ministry of water in 2010 at the cost of 6.7billion shillings.

The dam’s re-construction was spearheaded by the first lady then the minister in charge of Karamoja affairs Ms, Janet Museveni to address shortage of water facing the pastoralist community and also to improve food production through irrigation.

However, the level of water in the dam has drastically gone down, creating fears among the pastoralists  who are saying their animals will die should the current drought persists and dries up the dam.

A visit by our reporter on Sunday 31st, January 2021 to the dam found that the  dam which was expected to store 2.3 billion liters of water and serving many animals daily has remained with an estimated 700,000 litters of water after four month of severe drought that has hit Karamoja sub region harder.

This publication learnt that the dam measuring about 1.5 by 1.0 kilometres had been serving over 150,000 heads of cattle, goats, sheep’s, camels and donkeys of both the Karimojong and the Turkana who also crossed to graze their animals in the area after persisting drought in Kenya.

Peter Lokubal,  a pastoralist grazing his animals in Kobebe said their animals that had got used of taking enough water and enjoying good pasture will again become emaciated should the current drought persists and the dam completely dries up.

Pastoralists panic as Moroto’s multi-billion Kobebe water dam dries up
Pastoralists in Moroto are starting to panic as Kobebe dam is on the verge of drying up. Courtesy Photo

“The health of our animals had greatly improved and I am worried if the rains delay and this dam completely dries up, then we shall loose the animals,” he said.

John Emanikor, a Turkana pastoralist also grazing in Kobebe prayed that God should help and “release the rains” to fill the dam.

“It is only Uganda and Karamoja in particularly that had been rescuing us whenever we face drought in Kenya, now where shall we run if this dam dries up?” he asked.

James Akol, another pastoralists said if the dam dries up, the Karimojong will again be forced to cross to other neighbouring districts with their livestock and this he said might escalate again conflicts.

“This dam has been helping us all along even during the previous drought but now this time around if it dries up, we shall be in real trouble,” he said.

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Patrick Okotel the senior engineer in the ministry of water for production who was part of the team supervising the re-construction of the dam could not be reached for a comment since his mobile phone went unanswered for several times.

The Moroto district LCV chairperson Mr. Andrew Keem Napaja advised the pastoralists to calm down saying God will soon “release rains”.

“It’s unfortunate that drought has always destabilized the pastoralist community in Karamoja and we pray God that the situation normalizes,” he said.