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Acholi Leaders, Farmers See No Solution to Elephants Invasion

Oryema says although they have in the past been told to plant crops such as chili, dig trenches and set up beehives near their crop gardens these haven’t helped. He says that when he visited Kenya in 2015, he saw the use electric fence and drones to chase roaming elephants also fail.
04 Apr 2021 14:02
Stray Elephants at Kidepo National Valley Park.

Audio 7

Local leaders in Kitgum and Nwoya districts are still uncertain on which methods to employ to keep away marauding elephants that keep ravaging crop gardens of residents every year.

This stems from the recent invasion of elephants in Orom Sub County in Kitgum district as farmers started preparing their gardens for planting. Years of elephant attacks on crops have left farmers counting losses in acres of crops, injuries and sometimes death. More than 20 elephants, suspected to be from Kidepo National Game Park, recently invaded Orom sub-County in Kitgum district forcing residents to flee instead of opening their gardens for the first season planting.

Although the elephants have not invaded Nwoya district, the LC V Chairperson, Patrick Okello Oryema says the elephants from Murchison National Game Park invade the areas of Purongo Sub County between the months of May and November every year destroying acres of crops.   

Oryema says although they have in the past been told to plant crops such as chili, dig trenches and set up beehives near their crop gardens these haven’t helped. He says that when he visited Kenya in 2015, he saw the use electric fence and drones to chase roaming elephants also fail.

Uganda Wild Life Authority has started erecting electric fences around all national parks across the country to ward off the elephants but Oryema is pessimistic about its success. He notes that the money earmarked to install the electric fence is not enough to cover all areas at once, meaning that the elephants will dodge the fence and enter from the open spaces. 

//Cue in: “Gin ma gitimo…”

Cue out: …pud pe obikonyo dano.”//

A 2018 study by the British Ecology Journal also notes that electric wire fencing designed to mitigate Human Elephant Conflict, HEC, could lead to increased potential for HEC in new areas.

Years ago, farmers in Nwoya and Kitgum districts who suffered crop destruction by elephants were also advised to dig trenches, plant chili pepper and set up bee hives around their crop gardens to stop the elephants from crossing into their gardens.

However, Oryema said farmers in Nwoya tried all those approaches and none of them worked.

//Cue in: “Pe tye lagam …” 

 

Cue out: …ginongo solution ne’o.”//

Translation:  

There is no single and permanent solution to the problem of elephants. You remember when the elephants just started disturbing the people, we started by digging trenches, but after a short time, the elephants got a solution. They could pluck tree branches and cover the trenches and cross over them. 

Afterwards, the use of chilli was introduced, but they could walk past the chilli gardens and destroy crops elsewhere. We again applied the approach of using beehives around the gardens. But the elephants still got a way out. So, they are sensitive and they behave like human beings. You bring one approach; they get used to it and get a solution.”

Oryema thinks that the only way farmers can at least benefit from their crops is by changing their enterprises and planting crops not eaten by elephants such as simsim, tea and cotton.  He says harvests such as simsim can be staked at home to dry such that even if the animals scatter them, the affected farmers can still gather them and not lose all.

//Cue in: “Approaches ma pat pat…”

Cue out: …ci gidok cen.”//   

Quirino Olum, the LC III of Orom Sub County in Kitgum district says the elephants that invade his sub county enter from all corners, because they come from as far as Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan and seem to have different behaviors. He says their attempts to use chili have also failed.

//Cue in: “Lyec ma ikare ni…”

 

Cue out: …weng pe olare.”//  

Translation:   

“These elephants can’t be scared by chilli pepper. We have different types of elephants; the brownish and black ones and they cross all boundaries. And the biggest problem is that they come from as far as Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, and they all behave differently. And it is obvious they can’t be chased by chili, because we already tried and it did not work.”

Olum appeals to officials in the agriculture department to help in changing the mindset of the farmers, on which crops to plant. He however, says changing the crop enterprises will also affect the food security of the farmers in case they adopt long maturing crops.  

//Cue in: “That one again…”

  

Cue out: …dwe madwong ata.”//  

Richard Oyet, a farmer in Orom Sub County, says he has lost several acres of crops to marauding elephants for the past three years. Oyet says last season alone, he lost crops worth at least Shillings 1.3 million.

//Cue in: “Dano Otemo…”

Cue out: …ma pelare.”//

 

On the suggestion that the farmers should plant other crops that are not eaten by elephants, Oyet says he cannot plant nonfood crops and spend money buying food. He says their soil might not also be favorable for crops such as cotton and tea, which they are being told to plant. 

//Cue in: “Eno ni pe lare…”

Cue out: …tye kwede.”//