Residents in Karamoja sub-region are resorting to eating leaves from wild trees as they burn charcoal for survival as hunger continues to dog their region.
The residents say the ongoing drought has worsened the hunger situation forcing them to resort to environmentally degrading activities to survive, hence consuming the tree leaves as they fell for charcoal.
Anna Mary Napeyok, a resident of Nawanatau village in Loputuk sub county Moroto district said that they have exhausted all other options for food and the only available alternative is stripping leaves from the trees to boil as food.
Napeyok noted that because of the poor harvest they experienced in the last season, families are pushed into desperate means of survival such as begging for ‘malwa’ (millet brew) residues in the trading centers and those with energy can rely on charcoal burning.
Lucy Namer, another resident and a mother of six children said that although the future of her family relies on charcoal burning, the price of charcoal has dropped and yet food price is being hiked.
Namer revealed that she cuts down two trees in a week to be able to make charcoal that she can sell to buy food that can sustain them for a week.
’We sell a bag of charcoal between 15,000 and 20,000 Shillings but a 2 kilogramme can of maize is sold at 10,000 Shillings, so look at my family of eight people to fathom the gravity of the danger,’’ Namer explained.
Emmanuel Longes, the LCIII sub-county chairperson for Lorengedwat in Nabilatuk district said the low prices of charcoal have caused the destruction of more trees because people cut down many trees to collect enough charcoal.
Longes said the environment has massively been destroyed and they cannot stop people since that is the only economic activity that enables them to take care of their families.
He appealed to the government to provide other alternative economic activities for the local people in order to save the environment.
Paul Lorukale, the Nabilatuk district councilor representing Lorengedwat Sub County observed that the recent ban restricting charcoal dealers from buying in big quantities has affected the business.
Lorukale said families have continued suffering because charcoal dealers no longer buy from them and yet that is their only income-generating activity.
He also revealed that although families have resorted to surviving on tree leaves, they will still need money to buy some flour and this can only be got through selling charcoal.
Paul Komol Lokol, the LCV chairperson for Kotido district appealed to the government to speed up with the process of procuring food relief because the situation is getting worse.
Lokol noted that even if rains come for cultivation, other people may not be able to open up their gardens because they are weakened by hunger.
Joseph Lobot, the LCV district chairperson for Amudat said that the government should now embark on sensitizing farmers and timely delivery of seeds so that they are able to catch up with early rains.
Lobot noted that the rains in Karamoja are no longer predictable and the only way to beat the heat is to prepare the farmers early enough.
Earlier in January, several families in Kotido district migrated to nearby districts of Abim, Teso and Acholi sub region in search for food. However the district officials later banned people from fleeing their homes to avoid panic.