By Moses Nampala
For the eighth year running, Vision Group, together with the Embassy of the Netherlands, KLM Airlines, dfcu Bank and Koudjis Animal Nutrition, is running the Best Farmers’ competition. The 2023 competition runs from March to November, with the awards in December. Every week, Vision Group platforms will publish profiles of the farmers. Winners will walk away with sh150m and a fully paid-for trip to the Netherlands.
He hardly has any formal qualification in the discipline of livestock, save for the off-hand informal tips he got from, now, his deceased Somali cargo truck driver father and livestock farmer, years back, when he was a little boy.
But, in spite of the odds, very few match Haruna Santur in the art of rearing desert livestock on a big scale.
After making his mark as the sole commercial camel livestock farmer in the country, today Santur boasts a flourishing herd of 600 desert animals, in the remote sun-baked fields of Amudat district, Karamoja sub-region.
While providing both dairy and meat products to mainly the upper class community in Kampala, Santur has shifted gears, trying his hands on yet another species of desert livestock — the Gala goats.
He had just procured a batch of 150 female Gala goats from the arid horn of Africa, for breeding at his farm, in the middle of 2021, when government scouts who, for a long time admired his flair in indigenous livestock enterprises approached him on the same.
“I have since accepted to work with the Government through the Office of the Prime Minister that has since assigned me to procure a batch of 4,000 Gala goats, a task I’ve successfully executed,” he narrates.
In a bid to improve the household income of the warrior community, government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, has embarked on the chore of disbursing the female Gala goats that Santur delivered, to each household in Amudat district.
Each household in the predominantly pastoral community is receiving five female desert goats for breeding. Government is still in negotiations with Santur to supply the same to the rest of the districts constituting the semi-desert Karamoja sub-region.
From the face of it, the name “Gala” to most Ugandans sounds alien/strange.
“However, “Gala goats” are neither exotic nor high breed species, but purely indigenous goat species that, for ages, have been reared by natives in the considerably dire, dry plains of the horn of Africa, western Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia,” the Ugandan-Somali national says.
Opting for the gala goats
Santur who has first-hand experience with the weather, in both the upper and lower belt of the horn of Africa, got the idea of rearing Gala goats after his successful move of rolling out the camel enterprise.
“Years ago, when I started the now flourishing camel livestock enterprise, I could barely shrug off the fear of failure, but the giants (camels) amazingly adapt so well to the weather conditions here, beyond my expectation,” boasts the 66-yearold farmer.
“I weighed my options after a careful evaluation of the weather pattern in the horn of Africa that I’m privileged to be a part of, observing that although the Karamoja subregion could be hot, like any other semi-desert area, the heat here is considerably relative compared to the upper belt of the horn of Africa that is prone to heat extremities.”
However, his assertions corroborate with two separate environmental authorities. According to National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Karamoja is among the areas in Uganda with the least rainfall pattern ranging from 350- 600mm per annum.
Eminent environment research scientists in their reports underscore the variations of weather conditions in both regions that include, among others, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and western Kenya, which explains why Karamoja has perennially become a refugee hub for pastoral immigrants from the sister country of South Sudan (Nuer, Dinka) and Turkana and Pokot from western Kenya.
In his research paper: “Climatic change inducing pastoral community migration to neighbouring countries,” John Jaoko stresses that the Karamoja sub-region “could undeniably be part of the arid horn of Africa belt (according to the IGAD protocol), but still holds the basic needs yearned by other nomadic communities in the horn of Africa region.” He adds:
“At the height of aridity every year, pastoral communities from sister countries of southern Sudan and western Kenya, perennially seek refugee in Karamoja in Uganda, because of the horrendous heat at the visitor’s home, against the backdrop of dwindling rainfall patterns, as low as 120mm -350mm per year.”
Yet in their research paper “Pastoralism in new borderlands, a humanitarian livelihood crisis,”by Hellen Young and Zoe Cormackmay observe that the scale of aridity in southern Sudan was too critical, as of late the area experiences an average rainfall pattern of a paltry 150mm per annum.
Today, Santur does not regret taking the decision of introducing another species of desert animals in Karamoja as they are adapting very well too.
“Barely a year has elapsed since I procured the parent stock of 150 Gala goats. They have since, rapidly multiplied, to a herd of more than 500,” Santur chuckles with excitement. Dr Umar Hussein, a Kenyan-Somali veterinary doctor in private practice, whom Santur occasionally hosts for technical advice on the new desert animal enterprise, says Gala goats are unique indigenous livestock.
“The species, sometimes, called ‘Somali’ or ‘Boran’ are as old as invariable pastoral communities in the upper horn of Africa belt, although numerous pastoral communities among the Turkana in Kenya successfully adopted them,” Hussein says.
He adds that the species of goats are so resilient to the extremely dry weather that their favourite and staple diet is usually thorny shrubs and dry desert grass.
Hussein says the species of goats come in predominantly white coats, those with patches of white and brown/black notwithstanding.
“By stature, they are relatively giant, big-bodied in comparison with local species boasting with a net weight doubling that of a local goat species here.”
An average female Gala goat attains maturity at only six months and at a weight not less than 45kg, although they tend to surpass 45kg.
“The net weight keeps on increasing with proper feeding and watering up to averagely 65-70kg,” Santur says.
Female species offer both meat and dairy products. He adds that a well-tended and nourished lactating female could offer about three litres of considerably concentrated milk.
The net weight of a male Gala goat surpasses that of a female.
“Usually, a two-year-old buck staggers in net weight of between 88-100kg.”
Dr Hussein says the most deadly epidemic that haunts these indigenous species is caprine pleuro pnemonia. “It is a very rare disease.
The animal suddenly catches fever, cough and running nose, prolonged diarrhoea, drastic loss of weight and death should a farmer delay to treat the entire herd.”
Umar Hussein, a veterinary doctor, says the Gala goats amazingly have a short gestation period of five months on conception.
“A farmer is guaranteed yields from two conceptions per year,” he says. He says goats are endowed with a multiple birth cycle of 2-3 litters per single birth.
“It takes an interval of 6-8 weeks after first delivery for a female Gala goat to conceive again.”
For Santur, the current pioneer stock is for breeding. However, in unlikely circumstances, he confesses to selling a two-month-old young one at sh350,000.
“Today if my breeding stock had reached 1,000, a potential client seeking to buy an adult female Gala goat from my farm would have to pay me not less than sh650,000, and not less than sh800,000 for a young buck.”
Born to a Somali truck driver, Idle Santur (senior) and Agnes Moriok from the Pokot, one of the Karimojong ethnic groups, Santur Junior was the only child of the couple.
He never had the opportunity of getting a formal education, save for basic knowledge in handling restaurant business from his father.
When he was 18, his father would take him to his ancestral home in Baidoa, Somalia, where he would induct him in the alphabet of the camel animals.
He would continue with the business when his father passed on.
Meanwhile, he would make arrangements of evacuating the 16 camels he had inherited from his deceased father.
Later, he acquired his own land in Kakies sub-county, Amudat district, where he has since settled.
He is married to Fatuma Hussein with whom they have 10 children.
Camels are desert animals that come in fur coats of brown and white.
Santur says the camels he rears in Kakies sub-county, Amudat district, are very social animals, with no inkling of greed.
Santur rears two types of camels — Pokot and Somali species. Somali species are giants, an adult standing between 12-14 feet and weighing 600kg-900kg.
While a Pokot/Turkan species stands at 8-10 feet and weighs 220-240kg. A female camel, like the elephant, takes a gestation period of 12 months to produce.
A well-nourished female Somali camel offers 20 litres of milk a day and 10 litres for the Pokot/ Turkana species.
A farm gate price of a litre of camel milk goes for sh10,000 while a kilogram of camel meat goes for sh28,000 in their designated butcher shops in Kisenyi, Kampala.
Santur is one of the commercial farmers in the county who have succeeded in rearing the desert animals on a large scale.
The farm that provides both dairy products and meat to mostly the community in Kampala boasts a population of 600 camels.
“A camel is no ordinary livestock, particularly the one reared in the right setting like Karamoja. It is an essential mammal to mankind. People ought to consider a camel as a natural blessing that God donated to mankind.”