A recent effort to revitalize Ankole Longhorn Cattle has spread through pastoral communities in Uganda. Following guidelines set by the Livestock for the Empowerment of Rural People (LIFE) Network, experts, community members and Bahima, the Ugandan Ankole Longorn cattle herders, contributed knowledge of the breed and its heritage in hopes of spreading awareness of the importance of the Ankoles to the country’s resilience. The Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) and the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Development (LPP) mobilized the effort.
Since the 1990s, the Ugandan government pushed the interbreeding of Ankole Longhorns with exotic breeds, in particular Frisian cattle. According to the Ugandan government, the total percent of crossbred and exotic cattle in the country rose from 4.4 to 17.3 percent between 1997 and 2006. These exotic cattle exhibit characteristics seemingly ideal for increasing profits for farmers on smaller plots of land. As populations in Sub-Sarahan Africa grew, available grazing land diminished, which pushed cattle efficiency to top priority. However, while these exotic breeds can turn less feed into more food, they are typically much more susceptible to illness in the face of harsh environmental conditions. In hot, arid environments, exotic breeds grow weak and more likely to fall host to infectious disease and parasites. Farmers are forced to increase antibiotic and pesticide use on these cattle, which makes them much more expensive to manage.
The incredible horns on the Ankole cattle help regulate circulation in order to keep them cool in hot weather. They can also forage on meager vegetation. The Ankole Longhorns are not only more resilient in the face of harsh climatic conditions, but are also a strong link in the cultural heritage of Ugandan people. Hooves and horns of the breed can be turned into medicinal broths and tinctures. And, according to the AgriCultures Network, their milk and meat were recently proven to be more nutritious than that of the exotic and crossbred cattle.
Current efforts in Uganda focus on using this knowledge to develop a niche market for the Bahima to reintegrate their products into the community, to help preserve the cattle and increse incomes for farmers.