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Farmers advised to grow alternative crops to mitigate elephants invasion

Elephants in Kidepo Valley National Park are fuelling human-wildlife conflict. File Photo

Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Farmers in Orom sub county, Kitgum district, neighboring Kidepo Valley National Park have been advised to grow alternative crops that are less attractive to elephants to mitigate their invasion into farmlands.

This follows the persistent invasion of elephants from the conservation area into community farmlands. Hundreds of hectares of crops have recently been destroyed by the marauding elephants in Gule, Lungayura, and Lolwa parishes.

Samuel Amanya, the Chief Warden at Kidepo Valley National Park says that they are proposing to start sensitizing locals on taking non-food crops cultivation around conservation areas to avoid encountering losses to elephants.

Traditionally, farmers in Orom sub county grow food crops like cassava, beans, maize, finger millet, soybeans, sunflower, groundnuts and sweet potatoes among others that have been attracting elephants over the years.

Amanya says non-food crops like tea, which are being cultivated by farmers in areas near Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda have yielded positive results in reducing the invasion of elephants and buffaloes.

He says the idea is one of the many ways among them digging trenches, growing mauritius thorns and beekeeping, UWA is using to curb the incursion of elephants into farmlands.

Amanya however notes that some of the areas that are repeatedly being invaded by elephants are gazetted conservation areas that have been encroached by illegal settlers. He cited the Karenga community wildlife conservation area that consists of Kabong, Abim, Kotido, Agago, Kitgum and Karenga districts.

Amanya says they are planning to work closely with the respective district local governments in areas encroached to zone out areas for crop growing.

Following an outcry from locals and their leaders on the repeated incursion of the elephants in Orom sub-county, UWA in August deployed six rangers and another 20 Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers at Tikao village for emergency responses.

But area leaders say the deployment hasn’t been helpful since the elephants haven’t ceased invading their gardens and destroying crops on a daily basis. Johnson Todera Acellam, the LCIII chairperson of Orom sub-county says that he is worried that his area may be hit hard with food shortage in the coming months since most crops were affected by the stray elephants.

The crops include cassava, finger millet, maize and beans. Acellam says that the elephants have been ravaging gardens every day despite the presence of UWA and UPDF soldiers in the three parishes of Gule, Lungayura, and Lolwa. He estimates that close to 1,000 farmers in the three parishes have been directly affected and called for urgent intervention by the government.

The Chua East Member of Parliament Margaret Lamwaka in an earlier interview with URN appealed to the government to compensate farmers in the areas where elephants have destroyed their crops. In 2019, the parliament passed the Uganda Wildlife Bill 2017 that provides for compensation for loss of life and property caused by wild animals escaping from conservation areas.

But Amanya says the bill hasn’t yet been implemented since it requires other regulations for its operationalization. He notes that UWA has however come out with another initiative where a private insurance company is already working on taking details of injuries afflicted on humans by wildlife but not crops.

In August this year, the government through the Office of the Prime Minister sent 7,000 Kilograms of maize flour and 3,000 kilograms of beans as relief food to victims of elephant’s invasion in Orom sub-county.



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