Nwoya, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The persistent invasion of elephants has forced farmers in Acholi to harvest premature crops from their gardens. The affected areas include Koch Goma, Koch Lii, Purongo, and Got Apwooyo sub counties in Nwoya district and Namokora, Orom, and Omiya Anyima sub counties in Kitgum district.
They neighbor Murchison Falls National Game Park, lying across Nwoya district and Kidepo Valley National Game Park in Kitgum district.
The areas have for the past months been experiencing recurring invasions by stray wild animals especially elephants that roam in search of water and pastures mostly during the onset of the dry season and throughout the period.
In the Acholi sub-region, farmers start harvesting crops planted in the second season from the months of late November throughout December and January when they have fully matured.
However, most farmers in the affected areas say that they have been forced to harvest their crops prematurely due to the persistent invasion and destruction by stray animals. In Kitgum district, it is reported that over 500 acres belonging to at least 1,600 families have been destroyed by stray elephants posing food insecurity.
The crops include cassava, sorghum, sweet potatoes, millet, maize, beans, and pumpkins among others. They are known for attracting elephants due to their sweet scents.
Monica Lanyero, a farmer in Namokora sub county says that she has been forced to harvest her sorghum crops one month earlier than the due time due to threats from the straying elephants.
John Oketta, another farmer in Pugoda East, Kitgum district says that the elephants last month stamped on and destroyed ten acres of their banana garden forcing them to cut off the remaining ones before ripening.
Elizabeth Ladoo, is among the farmers who were also last month forced to harvest her four acres of sorghum two months before the due time for fear of losing it to the straying elephants.
She noted that their plights to the Uganda Wildlife Authorities (UWA) to drive away and stop the wild animals, especially the elephants from straying into their gardens have since yielded no fruit.
Peter Akera says that he is now selling off his sweet potatoes in bulk to market vendors so that he does not incur a total loss.
Geoffrey Opyet Junior, the Namokora sub county LC3 chairperson in Kitgum district said that the situation in his area is out of hand, noting that the only solution is harvesting the premature crops.
However, Richard Sejjoba, an agriculturalist says that harvesting crops prematurely causes food contamination by aflatoxins which pose health risks to consumers.
Christopher Arwai, the Kitgum LCV chairperson said that they have constantly engaged UWA about the challenge yet no proper actions have been taken to address it.
Martin Oryema, the Public Relations Officer for Kidepo Valley National Game Park notes that they are doing their best to address the challenges, adding that community scouts have been trained to drive away the stray elephants.