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From Cattle Raider to Community Change Agent

In the vast and challenging landscape of Nakapelimoru Sub County, a remarkable transformation has taken place. The story of Mr. John Longok, a 25-year-old former raider turned community change agent, has become a beacon of hope for many in his village. Thanks to the intervention of the USAID ICAN project in his community, John’s life has been redefined, and he now shares his journey of change and growth.
John, a married man with a one-year-old child, reflects on the hardships he faced before the ICAN project entered his life. “No work to earn quick money, everything is about school today,” he recalls. His education was cut short at Primary 5, and he longed for opportunities to improve his circumstances. However, driven by ambition, he found himself drawn into raiding alongside his community members who seemed to strike it rich. One successful raid brought them cattle, but the next venture would prove to be a turning point in John’s life.
As John and his village mates, armed and determined, set out for a raid in Turkana, Kenya, fate intervened. Their group was intercepted by a helicopter gunship in a place called Lotir. Bombs rained down, claiming the lives of many of his comrades. In a desperate bid for survival, John and his friend Lopurong sought refuge in a valley, braving the harsh currents of water. Miraculously, they emerged from the ordeal, only nine of them surviving. It was a sobering moment that made John question the path he had chosen.
Upon returning home, John encountered Michael, the manager of Josto Farm Supplies, who was seeking the villages of Kairwata and Lomukura. Michael recognized the potential within John and Lopurong and enrolled them as Business Service Providers (BSPs). Intrigued yet apprehensive, John joined a meeting at the ICAN office in Kotido, where he underwent training that would forever change his perspective.
With newfound knowledge in vegetable cultivation, the creation of mineral licks, and other business skills, John ventured into small-scale entrepreneurship. He earned Ugx 39,000 from selling vegetables, Ugx 300,000 from mineral lick sales, and received a commission of Ugx 31,000 for making rocket Lorena stoves. This revelation opened John’s eyes to the possibility of earning a decent living without relying on cattle rustling.
Now, as a community change agent, John is dedicated to spreading the message of empowerment. He encourages others who were once cattle rustlers to return home and embrace a new path towards prosperity. Recognizing the challenges faced by his community, John advocates for their participation in VSLA groups, despite cultural reservations about sharing venues with in-laws. The demand for an improved livelihood is breaking down these barriers and fostering positive change.
John’s own transformation has inspired his brothers who are still engaged in raiding to reconsider their future. His village now sees him as a living testament to the power of change and resilience. Despite the hardships he has faced, John expresses gratitude for the helicopter bombing that spared his life, a life that now embodies hope and the possibility of a better future.
In closing, John extends a plea to other cattle rustlers, urging them to return home and seek wealth through legitimate means. He emphasizes the need to explore small business opportunities, such as selling vegetables, as a more sustainable and honorable path. His village looks to him as a role model, and John continues to thank God for his second chance, mindful of the brothers who have yet to find their way back.
John Longok’s journey from cattle raider to community change agent epitomizes the transformative power of the USAID ICAN project. Through its interventions, lives are being reshaped, mindsets are shifting, and new opportunities are emerging. As more individuals like John embrace a different path, the ripple effect of change expands, leading to a brighter and more prosperous future for communities once plagued by conflict and uncertainty.

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