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Christine Nakamya says she tried to grow vegetables near her home, but the cattle that roam her neighborhood ate them, despite a law prohibiting livestock owners from allowing their animals to wander free. Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

Despite Law, Ugandan Livestock Graze Freely as Owners Go Unpunished


In Uganda, letting livestock graze freely carries steep penalties. But that hasn’t discouraged owners, whose cows and goats make meals of neighborhood vegetable gardens.

NANSANA, UGANDA — Christine Nakamya begins her day with a quick trip to the vegetable market. She spends 6,000 Ugandan shillings ($1.62) each week on leafy greens.

She’s a bit bitter about having to pay for the produce.

“This expenditure would not be necessary [if I could] grow my own vegetables on my small garden around my house,” the 29-year-old says.

She’s tried it, she says. The plants grew fine, but before she could harvest them, they were gobbled up by the goats and cows that roam the neighborhood.

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Ben Mugurusi allows his cattle to graze in residential neighborhoods. Herdsmen say the urban area needs designated grazing space.

Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

Nakamya is one of many area residents who are frustrated by the insatiable appetites of local livestock. The Animals Straying Act prohibits owners from allowing cattle to roam in urban and suburban areas, but Mpokoto Serwadda, local council chairperson of Nansana Kabumbi East, says officials don’t know who to charge.

The penalty for allowing animals to wander in the area is 20,000 shillings ($5) or up to two years in prison, says Dorris Kiconco, director of livestock in Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

But cattle owners are unperturbed. There are no designated grazing areas nearby, they say, so the cattle find greens where they can.

“We have not entered anyone’s gate to graze cattle,” says Joseph Kabanda, a herdsman. “For us, we follow open spaces where our cattle can find grass.”

And if the cattle do wander near homes, Kabanda knows how homeowners can solve the problem: “Let them construct high fence walls.”

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Specioza Nassali uses nets to protect her garden. Like many residents near Kampala, Uganda, Nassali struggles to fend off wandering livestock.

Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

To discourage grazing, some residents use mosquito nets and other barriers.

Nakamya, though, says she’s resigned herself to buying greens.

“I am not ready to construct a wall fence around my home,” Nakamya says.

Edna Namara, GPJ, translated some interviews from Luganda.