All you need to know about the Karamojong Tribe

Overview

Located in in the North-Eastern part of Uganda close to the border of Sudan & Kenya is the Karamoja region. It consists of 7 districts including Abim, Kaabong, Napak Kotido, Amudat, Nakapiripirit and Moroto.

The Karamoja region is a semi-arid area well-known for Agro-Nomadic pastoralism This is a form of rearing of cattle herds whereby the Karamojong rarely move with their cattle to different areas looking for greener pastures and water sources unless the conditions become unbearable. Instead, their way of life depends on growing crops and rearing of livestock as an economic activity and source of food.

Visiting this region during your safari offers you an opportunity to explore both the beauty of the Karamojong culture and the breathtaking wildlife/nature around them.

The livelihood of the Karamojong people

Unfortunately, the Karamoja region is still the most underdeveloped region in the country. That said, the livelihoods of the Karamajong people entirely depend on their livestock for food. During your visit to the Karamoja region, you will notice that the locals rear livestock such as cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys. They tend to make use of all the products from the animals for example; milk and blood for food, cow dung for construction and for smoking their cattle to keep away dangerous insects, hides and skins for clothing and for sleeping on.

Karamoja’s Cultures and Traditions

Karamoja is a multi-cultural region with pastoral tribes believed to have emerged from (the Abyssinian highlands ) present-day Ethiopian Highlands as they were searching for grazing land for their livestock. Ethnically, Karamojongs are of a Nilotic origin and their language is of a Nilo-Saharan Kalenjin origin.

Ethnic Groups in Karamoja

Dodoth: The Dodoth mainly occupy the Kaabong region. However; there is a small marginalized group of people called the Ik who live in the mountains of Morungole. This mountain is about 2700 metres above the Karamojong plain. The Dodoth are basically pastoralists that traverse the areas of Morungole as they graze their cattle.

Ik People: The Ik People are a small group of about 10,000 people that live in the mountainous areas of North Eastern Uganda bordering Kenya. They are also pastoralists that traverse the areas of Mount Morungole while grazing their animals. The Ik are a marginalized group of people in Uganda. Their language is different from that of the Karamojong and their language and culture is threatened by the Karamojong. Because of this, the government recognized the Ik people and gave them a special status of representation in the Parliament of Uganda in order to provide them with special support.

Tepeth: The Tepeth are a group of pastoralists that occupy the areas of Moroto district and are believed to be the original inhabitants of the Karamoja region. Mountain Moroto is the highest in the region (3,083 metres) and towers over Moroto town. This group of people graze their livestock from the mountains areas in Moroto.

Jei: The Jei are a group of cattle keepers that occupy the areas of Kotido district. Kotido area is mainly occupied by the Jei who are warriors and used to greatly participated in cattle wrastling. However, due to the government’s disarming projects, the practice was brought down. In the Eastern part of Kotido town, you will find the largest pastoral-traditional village in East Africa called Nakapelumoru. These people majorly survive on the products they harvest from their cows such as milk and blood.

Pokot: The Pokot people are a group of cattle keepers that live in West Baringo in North-Western Kenya and also in Pokot district in North Eastern Uganda and Eastern Karamoja Region. They form a section of the Kalenjin ethnic group and they speak the Pokot Language. These people have their own categories among the males whereby the boys are called the Karachona, the circumcised men are called the Muren, and the old men are called the Poi.

Where do the Karamojong live?

The Karamojong people live in villages called Manyattas meaning bounded residential areas using thorns and shrubs with an entry for people and one big one for animals.

All the people in this region live in manyattas during the rainy seasons. However, during the dry season, men move nearer to the water points/springs where they can find grazing land for their animals whereas women and children stay in the manyattas as they prepare for farming and other income generating activities like; weaving baskets, ropes mats and several others.

The responsibilities of the men and women in the community

The Karamojong men

One of the major duties of the men is to put up kraals (temporary camps) where they stay with their animals during the nights and then move with the animals during day in search of grazing land.

Activities carried out in the kraal include; smoking of the animals, taking care of the young animals and those that are about to deliver and milking of cattle in the morning.

The Karamojong women

While the men are busy in the kraals, the women and their children engage in household activities as well as attending to the animals. There are also other activities conducted in the Kraals such as blood collection, fire making, storytelling, feeding animals and so on.

What tourist attractions are found in this region?

Some of the attractions that you may visit while in the Karamoja region include Kidepo Valley National Park, Matheniko Game Reserve, Pian Upe Game Park, mountains and many others.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is found in the far North-Eastern part of Uganda bound by both Kenya and Sudan. It is one of Africa’s magnificent wilderness destinations and is known for its beautiful sceneries and vast wildlife species such as elephants, zebras, bush pigs, buffaloes, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, jackals, Cheetahs, ostriches and elands. As you explore the park, you may engage in activities like bird watching, game drives, hiking, nature walks and Cultural visits (for example to the IK people).

In the far North, close to the Sudan border, you will find the Kangoloroko hot- Springs (located a few kilometres from the Kidepo River) which is one of the spectacular spots in the Kidepo wilderness.

 Safari activities in the Karamoja region

Visiting the Karamoja region, will expose you to a variety of activities and experiences including; game drives in the park, conducting community/cultural visits, hiking to the mountains, visiting kraals, and experiencing the pastoral lifestyle.

Game drives

You will have game drives in Kidepo Valley National park where you will have an encounter with a number of wildlife species like Elephants, cheetahs, large herds of Buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, ostriches and many others.

Community/cultural visits

Community/cultural visits will enable you to learn from the locals through observing their way of life and interacting with them. Get an opportunity to engage in activities like milking cattle, preparing meals (such as the unique blood meal), traditional dances and watching games like wrestling among the men.

How can one access the Karamoja region?

Thankfully, there has been a great improvement in the road network that passes through the Karamoja sub-region. Most roads were graded and some were constructed for instance; the Moroto – Katakwi – Soroti road and the Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong road. That said, the roads are accessible and therefore one can access the region using a private vehicle, public means or a comprehensive safari vehicle provided by us.

If one prefers to use air transport, they can board a chartered plane from Entebbe International airport to Kidepo Air field which is within Kidepo Valley National park.

COVID 19 and Ebola travel guidelines

Ensure to follow all the necessary COVID 19 and Ebola travel guidelines to ensure that you are in a safe and healthy condition during your safari with us. One of our major priority is to provide the best possible safety and comfort during your tour, so please rest assured that you will be in safe hands.

Some of the travel guidelines include wearing and carrying a sufficient number of surgical masks, moving with an alcohol based hand sanitizer, vaccination against COVID 19 or taking a PCR test and several others. Book with us today and get the safari of your dreams!

Conclusion

Make your safari booking with us today and get to experience the true beauty of nature and the amazing cultures within the Pearl of Africa. Explore Africa’s best wilderness destination and create a bond with the Karamojong people; its all about the lasting incredible memories that you will carry with you always!

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