Blood taking in Karamoja : The karamajong are a pastoralist ethnic group residing in the northeastern region of Uganda, primarily in the Karamoja sub-region. While it is true that some traditional practices of the karamajong involve the consumption of animal blood, it is important to note this does not imply that they exclusively or predominately drink blood.
The consumption of animal blood among the karamajong is rooted in their traditional cultural practices and beliefs. It is primarily associated with rituals and ceremonies, especially those related to hunting or warfare. Blood is viewed as a vital and powerful substance that is believed to possess inherent strength and spiritual qualities.
During certain ceremonies, such as marriage rites, initiation ceremonies or celebrations following a success hunt, the karamajong may dink animal blood as part of the festivities. It is seen as a way to honor the animals, to connect with their spiritual essence, and gain strength and vitality from the animal’s life force. The blood is often mixed with milk or other substances to make it more palatable or to create a ceremonial drink. The blood was supplemented with meat, millet, sorghum and beans when the cow and goat dies the eat the mean but they don’t intentionally kill them for food.
This was done by shooting an arrow through the jugular vein of the cow. The blood would flow out and the women collects them using their traditional calabashes. After the collections have been make the mix the blood using sticks until the fibrin separates from the blood and its considered nutritious meal to protect this children from malnutrition since blood contains proteins.
The culture of consuming raw blood which was done on a daily basis among the karamajongs is now disappearing due to the reduced number of animal population in the region. Their cows were regarded as a means of livestock, prestige and for paying dowry. The bride price of cattle was ranging from one hundred and above. However, that has remained the history of Karamoja region. The number of animals that were used to get blood from has reduced due to constant cattle rustling.
It’s important to understand that these practices are deeply rooted in the Karamajong culture and traditional beliefs. However, it’s worth noting that with changing times and increased exposure to modern influences, not all karamajong individuals still engage in the consumption of animal blood. Like any culture practices can evolve and individual preferences may vary.
Alcohol consumption in Karamoja
Karamoja region in the northeastern Uganda is divided into eight District including Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, and Amudat and the Diocese of Moroto is one of the two Catholic Dioceses in Karamoja Sub-Region, and covers the political districts of Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit and Amudat, with a total population of3 over 50% of the total population . The climate in Karamoja is semi-arid characterized by an intense hot and windy season, the livelihood has changed over time due to cattle rustling and loss of livestock and is undergoing transition to agro-pastoralism. Other livelihoods include crop agriculture in the region is mainly sorghum, maize, groundnuts, beans, and also other cereals like sunflower and mining of limestone, rocks and gemstones. Karamoja has experienced unpredictable climate change conditions over the years. This has heavily impacted on the crop and livestock production , the effects of climate change are manifested in crop failure and reduction in livestock, resulting into food insecurity, malnutrition among children, environmental degradation, increase in pest infestation and human diseases. Climate change has not only enhanced drought and food insecurity but also other related hazards in the Sub-Region. Water resources are scarce and unevenly distributed, which makes people and livestock more vulnerable.
The karamajong are a pastoralist ethnic group residing in the northeastern region of Uganda, primarily in the Karamoja sub-region. While it is true that the traditional practices of the karamajong involve the consumption of local brew/ alcohol .Karamoja, according to the survey had the highest number of Alcohol consumers at 47.8% followed by Teso sub region with 14%, Bukedea region with 13.8%, South Buganda at 12.8%, Acholi 12% while Basoga registered the least number at 4.4%. Karamoja Sub-Region in Uganda is experiencing in the last few years a dramatic increase on alcohol consumption. The population is agro-pastoralist, and the area has been insecure, mainly due to cattle raids, up to some years ago. After security has been restored, a fast growing economic development has been observed on the side of transport, trade, communication, and mining of mineral resources. However, at the same time, a number of side effects have appeared, and the increase of alcoholism is the most evident and striking.
A large population of karamajong farmer grow crops for example maize, millet, and sorghum. karamajong traditional beverages is brewed from millet, sorghum and sometimes maize and other grains have relatively low alcohol content and have been a staple of social life in may homesteads in Karamoja.
The consumption of alcohol among the karamajong is rooted in their traditional cultural practices. The local alcohol or waragi is following brewed for personal consumption or festive occasions, brewing of these traditional beverages has evolved gradually into a commercial enterprise dominated by women. The local alcohol is highly manufactured locally and consumedly a majority of Karamojong’s, in some cases the residues out of the local “Ajon” is given to children as a source of food. In addition to the production, sale, and consumption of these traditional alcohol beverages, the market for this hard alcohol known as waragi, has been booming in the recent years in the region. The consumption of hard alcohol in the region has increased highly in the region due to the impacts of Covid 19 which impacted globally with impacts on people’s health, on families, and employment. Although locally brewed alcohol from sorghum and millet has an important and long-standing place in Karamajong tradition, the emerging trend of excessive consumption of hard liquor is a cause for concern among government and health officials, development practitioners and, especially, community members themselves the effect of alcohol consumptions has increasingly in the trend of several health dangers in the region.
It is noted that alcohol abuse has led to increase of the cases of domestic and gender based violence in Karamoja. Alcoholism also leads to mishandling and misuse of resources and livelihood in households and communities. According to current report karamajong have been involved in the exchanging of their crops such as sorghum and maize harvest for cartons of sachet waragi while in some districts in the region people have given away most of their animals to get alcohol therefore, alcohol abuse in the region is slowly decorating the culture of the karamajong community, promoting negative traditional practices like forced and early marriage. alcohol abuse in the region is directly connected to environmental degradation, in that karamajong have carried out massive deforestation were a huge number of trees have been cut down in order to produce charcoal and firewood which is then sold or used for alcohol manufacturing or in exchange of waragi. This alcohol consumption has spread beyond the villages up to the kraals where elder men take advantages of consuming when they at rest while dancing their traditional dance in the evening. In the region, local alcohol is now sold and consumed by various categories and ages of people, and it is no longer women alone as in the past.
However, the consumption of alcohol has been seen as a negative impacts on the mental, physical health, financial security, domestic violence and child parenting, HIV/STIs infections, early marriages and teenage pregnancies have been in high records in the region.
Traveler on Uganda cultural tours to Karamoja region you will experience and see have traditional alcohol is processed from the fermentation stage to the final consuming stage. You will also get to interact with the local community on how the live in their communal lifestyle, “Ere” and also get involved in their local alcohol drinking. During the cultural tour, the traveler will also be explored to the Kraal where most of the karamajong men shift with their cattle’s during the dry seasons.