Following the deep-rooted tradition of ranching in Katanga, transhumance is still ongoing today to lead highland cattle up to Lubumbashi, after an incredible journey.
Upper Lomami, Katanga, June 1st. A trek leaves the ranch of GRELKA, a company in Luniemo (Kamina), that will lead a herd of 500 cows and oxen along the legendary National 1 to its destination: Biano’s ranch, near Likasi and Kolwezi. From there, a part of the herd will continue to Lubumbashi where it will be sold. It is a distance of 450 kilometers that will be covered on foot for twenty days by cattle and forty men that accompanies it: herdsmen or “trekkers.”
An incredible adventure, which takes place several times a year, where men and animals fight together against climate hazards, dust, fatigue and risks inherent of such a journey across the Katangan bush. Not to mention the even greater difficulty of such journeys in the six-month-long rainy season…
The use of these ancestral treks is explained by the deplorable road and rail infrastructures that no longer permit the conveyance of animals by these biases. Such transhumances aim to supply local meat to the main cities of the province, meeting the growing demand for beef by workers and the people, thus resulting in the economic redeployment of the region.
We are not aware that in fact, just like West Africa and the Sudano-Sahelian countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo also has this pastoral custom. Imported from Katanga, it is part of the ancestral tradition of ranching of the whole province. The Belgians ‘breeders pioneers’ who used to lead the flocks from Rhodesia to the Katangan high plateaus first initiated treks at the time.
Today, the route is done in reverse: from the Northern green meadows, the herd starts to reach the copper towns of the South. These epic stories are an integral part of the Congolese collective memory. This article is a tribute to the courage of these cowboys, and the determination of these entrepreneurs who continue willy-nilly to work for the development of this sector and tradition.
Text & photos : Caroline Thirion
Going to Lubumbashi
Going to Kamina
CAA: +243 99 590 39 00 – [email protected] – www.caacongo.com
Stay in Lubumbashi
PLANET HOLLYBUM: +243 99 703 02 56 – [email protected]
BUSH CAMP: Av. Kapwassa 33 – +243 81 403 21 61 – www.boucherienumberone.com
Stay in Kamina
PROCURE DU DIOCÈSE DE KAMINA: Quartier Congo. Tel: +243 81 409 43 85 – +243 99 834 46 05 – +243 81 792 69 76
NOT TO BE MISSED
- Upemba National Park along the National 1: 1,200,000 hectares of savannah and forests, a unique biodiversity reservoir where you can find the last zebras in Katanga. Entrance through the city of Lubudi in the south or Lusinga from the north. A guesthouse has opened to welcome visitors.
- Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (CICN): Office in Lubumbashi: +243 99 701 36 30
- Palma Okapi Tours Agency: Lubumbashi – +243 99 878 91 87 – [email protected]
Special thanks to:
- Frank and Mathilda Demaeght-Bénatar (Boucherie Number One – Restaurant Bush Camp).
- Benoît Nienhaus, Mr Vamosi, Dr Lumbu, Désiré Funduki, Simon Lessayi wa Bile and the trekkers from GRELKA (Big Cattle of Katongola).