By Ndalimpinga Iita
WINDHOEK, March 27 (Xinhua) — Invasion of crop fields by elephants has dashed hopes of a bumper harvest for subsistence farmers in the north-eastern part of Namibia.
At Kangudja village in Namibia’s Kavango East region, farmers have lost their crops planted during the current rain season, following good rainfall.
The elephants said to have escaped from the nearest national park, invaded the area, broke down erected fences, and destroyed crops such as maize, millet, and vegetables. By the time the villagers and wardens intervened with measures, significant destruction was already done.
Kathiku Kupinga, a farmer from the village, lost her crops to the wild animals.
“I was hoping to capitalize on extended rainfall for better yields, but the damage caused by the elephants have dashed my dreams,” Kupinga said on Friday.
Like many farmers, the sight of destruction thwarts Mathew Muoya, another farmer whose crops were destroyed. Before that, he was optimistic about agricultural prosperity. But his joy was short-lived.
“I had invested a lot of resources and energy this season to improve yields. The crops were about to mature just in anticipation of harvest time around April and May this year. I am shattered to see my labour go to waste due to human-wildlife conflict,” he said.
Some farmers had to harvest their crops prematurely.
The locals heavily rely on the staple crops maize, millet, and other legumes for livelihood as well as trade surplus.
“But now we are unsure if we will harvest enough to sustain us throughout the year upon harvest. The destruction by elephants is a major factor to cultivating and sufficient food,” said Muoya.
Local constituency councillor Damian Manghambayi said that wildlife invasion also increases farmers’ vulnerability amid fears of loss of human life.
Early this month, the Namibian Police confirmed the death of a 46-year-old man, whom an elephant killed in the northern part of Namibia.
John Kasaona, from the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conversation, said that while Namibia has done well in conservation efforts, the increase in wildlife has resulted in human-wildlife conflict.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism in the Kavango East region continues to assess the situation and damage caused, said Apollinaris Kanyinga, an official in the ministry’s regional office.
The monitoring forms part of broader mitigation efforts by the Namibia government.
Richard Freyer, Control Warden for Human-Wildlife Conflict in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said that the ministry has implemented various mitigation measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict over the years.
These include driving and chasing away the animals, especially the elephants, in specific areas.
The ministry also captures and relocates animals to reduce conflict in hot spot areas.
In addition to the translocation of the wild animals, the ministry also embarked on a collaring program, fitting Global Positioning System (GPS) collars on animals such as lions and elephants in conjunction with the early warning systems.
“The animals are fitted with GPS collars, and in the specific hotspot areas, there would be towers that would pick up the signals of the GPS collars as soon as the wild animals come to the proximity of villages. That would trigger an alarm system that can send a short message to inform the community to take precautionary measures,” Freyer said.
Furthermore, the ministry created water points to draw animals away from the villages.
“We also remove problem animals through trophy hunting, and the money generated is directed to the conservancy in the form of concessions. These are self-reliance scheme in conservancies – all revenues are re-invested in the gaming product fund,” he added.
In addition to other interventions, efforts are also underway to institute elephant corridors, aimed to establish the routes and show people the routes of elephants so that they do not settle in the elephant corridors.
Moreover, according to Freyer, the ministry has also drafted the different species management plans.
In the meantime, the farmers implored the government to offset the cost of losses and damage caused by wild animals.
Bennett Kahuure, director of wildlife and national parks in the ministry, said that the offsets are done as per the country’s Revised National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management (2018-2027).
The compensation amount ranges between 500 to 3,000 Namibian dollars (33 to 200 U.S. dollars) or more based on the damage.
“We also recognize the plight when human life is lost, with 100,000 Namibian dollars given in instances of human death for cost-covering towards the funeral,” Kahuure said. Enditem