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Wednesday, 2nd March, 2011
AS leaders continue to root for a better future for the people of Karamoja, civil society organisations contend that more attention should be focused on full exploitation of the region’s natural resources.
As much as the Government and development partners have done a lot towards the development of the region, there are still gaps in the management of natural resources.
The Karimojong exhibited their area’s development potential by displaying natural resources during the Karamoja Development Expo and Symposium at Hotel Africana in Kampala recently.
The exhibition was organised by Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO) and Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA).
“We take note that Karamoja has gained relative peace and development courtesy of the Government and many development partners, but we still believe that we can do better should we extend our focus to natural resources,” said Isaac Kabongo, the ECO executive director, as he examined high-value mineral specimens from Karamoja.
Kabongo said Karamoja is endowed with Gum Arabica, a valuable industrial raw material used in manufacturing paint, ink and other various industrial adhesives.
This, he added, needed more marketing to maximise its economic value.
If we intensify marketing of these natural resources domestically and internationally, we shall enhance people’s morale to engage in commercial agriculture,” Kabong added.
Minerals in the Karamoja include ziricon, Gun Arabic, quartz, tarmaline, calcite, talc, limestone, silver, garnet, magnetite and marble.
It is estimated that 40% of the population survives on small-scale mining using crude methods.
Kabongo observed that the miners are susceptible to diseases because they lack protective clothing.
He added that the miners sell their minerals to big companies at giveaway prices.
This calls for support from the Government and other stakeholders to enable miners get modern mining tools and protective gear. They also need to be sensitised about mining methods that do not endanger their lives.
ECO is also urging the Government to increase the issuance of mining licences to small-scale mining communities.
According to the OSIEA country manger, Richard Mugisha, for Karamoja to develop, the Government and civil society organisations have to work together to ensure that there is value for money in any development intervention.
“We must avoid situations where the elite take advantage of the illiteracy of the masses to exploit them,” he says.
He adds that Karamoja has a special topography and a unique culture, which can be exploited to promote tourism.
Mugisha said the misfortunes associated with the mining sector are compounded by the fact that Karamoja was not surveyed during the sh9.2b national geophysical survey done in 2008 by Fugro, a South African firm.
The survey produced a mineral assessment covering 80% of the country, meaning that the Government too is oblivious of which areas in Karamoja have minerals.
According to Simon Nangiro, the chairman of the Karamoja Miners Association, the Government needs to carry out a though investigation of the minerals available in Karamoja and there value to protect the Karimojong from being exploited by bigger firms.
To maximise benefits from mining, Nangiro said, the Government should also facilitate investors to establish mineral processing plants to provide employment to Karimojongs.
Recently, Karamoja state minister Jenet Museveni said she was confident that the soon-to-start five-year Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme would cause significant development in the area.
“Karamoja cannot develop in a fortnight, but since the region is now peaceful and the Governments is committed to its fast development, nothing can hold us back,” Mrs. Museveni told the Karamoja National Development Stakeholders meeting at Hotel African in September last year.
The development plan highlights many areas including health, agriculture, education, mining and tourism.
The minister of state for energy and mineral development, Peter Lokeris, recently said the Government was devising ways in which Karamoja would be developed.
“We take note that there is need to harness efforts to ensure access to natural resources, land and security to have sustainable development in the region,” he said.
By David Ssempijja And Jeff Lule ; The New Vision Newspaper
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