Karamoja presents a mesmerizing tableau of rugged semi-arid plains interspersed with mountain ranges that gracefully meld into the horizon. Despite the land’s reluctance to yield to agriculture due to its challenging soil and climate, beneath its picturesque hills and sprawling plains lie abundant deposits of various minerals, including marble, gold, limestone, and other precious stones.

Unfortunately, the indigenous Karamojong communities have seen minimal benefits from these resources over the years, resulting in the region languishing as one of the poorest in the country. Much of the mining activity has been dominated by foreign companies, leaving the local populace with little influence over the governance of mineral resources.

“However, everything changed when USAID/CSSA supported us in establishing the Rupa Community Development Trust,” notes Paul Aleper Kaluwat, a board member of the trust.

In a concerted effort to promote equitable benefits sharing among indigenous pastoral communities, USAID/Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA) collaborates with Africa Leadership Institute (AFLI) to organize, train, and empower these communities. The aim is to provide platforms for engagement with both the government and mining companies to influence mineral management policies and practices.

David Pulkol, Executive Director of AFLI, underscores the transformative power of converting traditional clans into Communal Land Associations. These associations, once registered as legal entities, hold land in trust for all their members, empowering them with legal recognition and collective bargaining power.

Through biannual Inter-agency meetings facilitated by USAID/CSSA, community associations convene with mining companies and government representatives, actively participating in discussions and negotiations regarding mineral resources. Remarkably, these engagements have yielded promising outcomes.

Following support from USAID/CSSA in establishing and legally registering the Rupa Community Development Trust, members underwent leadership and advocacy training to effectively represent community interests in negotiations with mining companies.

USAID/CSSA not only facilitates dialogues but also empowers communities to advocate for comprehensive development initiatives beyond financial aid, as Paul emphasizes. Through skilled negotiation and advocacy, the Rupa community secured commitments from Sunbird, including drilling 24 boreholes, constructing a fully equipped health center, providing an ambulance, establishing a tertiary institution, and sponsoring 10 university students annually for 49 years.

“The arrival of USAID/CSSA marks a pivotal moment in our educational landscape. Rupa was once severely lacking in educational opportunities,” Paul reflects gratefully. “Their intervention has been nothing short of a blessing. We could not have achieved these milestones alone.”

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