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Elephants Forcing Farmers to Abandon Gardens in Kitgum

The onset of the March to May rainfall was expected to be a busy time for farmers, as they clear gardens and start planting. But farmers in Orom say that they have been frustrated by the failure of the wildlife authorities to control elephants that are marauding from Kidepo Valley National Game Park.
Stray Elephants at Kidepo National Valley Park.

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Farmers in the areas of Orom in Kitgum district have abandoned gardens, even as counterparts in the region prepare land for the start of the main cropping season.

The onset of the March to May rainfall was expected to be a busy time for farmers, as they clear gardens and start planting. But farmers in Orom say that they have been frustrated by the failure of the wildlife authorities to control elephants that are marauding from  Kidepo Valley National Game Park.   

The area that lies North West of the game park, has over the years been affected by stray elephants that move across villages in search of pasture and water. Over the years, they have lost thousands of crop gardens that are either destroyed or eaten by the animals.

Our reporter in the area says that only a handful of the farmers have cleared their gardens or sowed seeds during the first planting season. A majority of those interviewed by our reporter are overwhelmed by the fear of wasting energy and resources in what could be a futile venture. 

Christopher Oret, a seasoned farmer who has lost hundreds of sweet potatoes, cassava, beans and cotton to the elephants in the past few years, told URN that he is not willing to plant anymore, because the crops will only be of benefit to the animals and not his family.    

Oret has however appealed to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to ensure a lasting solution to the stray elephants that are putting lives at risk of starvation. He equally recalls that one of his wives was severely injured last year as he tried to drive away from the stray elephants from their cassava garden.   

Grace Anek, another farmer in Lujorongole Village says she lost gardens of sim-sim and two acres of sweet potatoes to stray elephants and is now unwilling to cultivate crops in bulk. She says that this time around, she will only grow crops on a small scale to feed her family of five children. 

Quirino Olum, the Orom Sub County Chairperson said that the situation in the area has gotten out of hand because sometimes the elephants also attack the farmers. Olum said that four people have been killed by the elephants over the last three years, and many other members in villages neighbouring Kidepo are living with injuries. 

He thought that abandoning farming is a threat to food security adding that the Orom Sub County leadership is engaging Uganda Wildlife Authority for a lasting solution to the stray elephants. Bashir Hangi, the UWA Spokesperson however asked the farmers to report cases of the stray elephants to them so that they can be driven away by their rangers.                           

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