KATIMA MULILO - The community of Kasheshe in the Sibbinda constituency lives in fear of elephant herds destroying their water points and reducing their gardens to the ground, leaving no plantation to flourish.
Due to poor rainfall experienced last season, many water streams have dried up. This forces wild animals such as elephants to search for water at whatever cost. These pachyderms are believed to be migrating from the Kudumo and Rupara national parks. One such nearby water source is the well dug by the community members of Sesheshe to sustain themselves and their livestock, as well as for gardening purposes.
However, the elephants have since taken over the well and made it their water hole, where they go and drink and bathe in the scorching heat.
“Today is Saturday, and that water hole used to be full of water. Now, it is full of sand, and only one 25-litre container of water is available for seven people. Our cattle will not have water and it’s been days with no shower. Our government must separate us by giving water to both. It’s painful to live such a life. Our gardens have been flattened by these beasts. What can I do again? Every day, I cry. All the footpaths you see are of elephants walking through there. You can see their waste lying around,” affected farmer Boysen Muleke complained.
He warned: “If the government does not do something, we will take the law into our hands and shoot these elephants. We live in fear. We are losing our livestock. The elephants are killing our calves. They no longer fear loud drums or chilly bombs. They are not even scared of warning shots.
We are in trouble. My workers decided to leave work because they were scared for their lives. The elephants are moving with their babies, and they are wild and huge.”
Muleke said he lost a 5 000 litres water tank last year, pulled down by the jumbos. Other losses include four calves; a cow that was stuck in the mud and was killed by elephants; as well as goats that jumbos trampled while in the kraal.
He added that while at a water point, his young son was nearly caught by these beasts. Luckily, people helped him by beating on a drum to divert their attention away from the boy.
As for his garden, he lost watermelons which were all eaten up, as well as ready cabbage and carrots.
Muleke thus suggests that the government should at least repair the water point near them, and make water dams for the wild animals to avoid conflict. Environment and tourism ministry spokesperson Romeo
Muyunda confirmed that they have received the reports. Thereafter, a team was dispatched to the area on 17 November to attend to the complaints.
“We have established that indeed there has been some damage, particularly the artificial water point. Some of the community members dug a hole to fetch water for domestic purposes from there, but the elephants have pushed sand into the hole, dirtying the water,” he acknowledged.
Muyunda said farmers at the affected cattle post [Katete] were advised to dig a small ring trench around their artificial water points. “It appears, as per the investigation done by the officials, that the area is dry, and there hasn’t been any rain there. As a result, elephants are forced to look for water elsewhere, leading to this conflict. This is not unique to this cattle post, but also in many other areas around the country,” he indicated.
The drought situation and disparities in rainfall patterns will lead elephants and other wild animals to move in search of water.
Therefore, Muyunda cautioned farmers and community members in wildlife-prone areas to secure their water infrastructure accordingly. He suggested that this can be done either through building concrete walls around water points, or digging ring trenches. “We are continuously engaged in developing separate water points for game and people in human-wildlife conflict-prone areas to mitigate the conflicts,” he said.
Another affected farmer, Simataa Mamili, said they had a water point where their animals were getting water, but the elephants destroyed it. “They made the open well their drinking hole. They made the water muddy, and very dirty. They finished the water meant for our livestock. Nowadays, you can beat a drum and make fire, but the elephants are not scared. They don’t go anywhere, even with the firing of warning shots. They don’t go, especially those with young ones,” Mamili grumbled.
The desperate farmers are appealing to the ministry of environment to move these jumbos back to the parks so that people and livestock can live freely.
“Once the elephants are gone, the community can start working in their gardens. So far, the elephants have destroyed all our gardens, which is why we want them moved to the parks,” he pleaded.
Sibbinda constituency councillor Mickey Lukaezi confirmed that there is an issue of human-wildlife conflict in the constituency.
Sibbinda has a conservancy called Bamunu, but the larger area of the constituency does not have a conservancy. This is why the conflict is more in the larger area without a conservancy.
He said the problematic areas where the conflict is has no presence of officials from nature conservation. The nearest environmental office where residents go to report any human-wildlife conflict is at Katima Mulilo, which is far for any emergency response. “The ministry takes time to respond, unless they hear that an elephant has been put down, and then they come quickly and make vehicles available. For instance, early this year, a farmer shot an elephant during harvesting time.
The elephants were being chased away with warning shots, but they wouldn’t go away from people’s fields. The elephants wanted to charge at the people, and the gentleman who is a former soldier shot one down. He was not arrested. The ministry came to remove the tusks, while the meat was donated to the community to eat,” Lukaezi narrated.
He suggested that the ministry reduces the number of elephants through trophy hunting, as there is a high number of jumbos in the region due to their free movement between neighbouring countries.
Furthermore, he recommended that the government drills boreholes for the affected communities who live in the corridors.
“It was agreed that six boreholes would be drilled in the corridors and Sibbinda will get six boreholes. If we get boreholes, the elephants won’t destroy them, unlike the traditionally-dug wells which they destroy and make their watering holes. Now, the cattle are dying of thirst. If they build these boreholes, they will save lives,” he stressed.
Lukaezi is also calling on the ministry to provide two rangers to be stationed at Sibbinda during ploughing season, since elephants tend to cause more havoc during that period.
“This will help farmers not to shoot the elephants, and people won’t travel far to Katima Mulilo to report such cases,” he added.
Other problematic wildlife animals attacking small and large stock include lions, hyenas and wild dogs.
New Era understands that there are plans to establish another conservancy within Sibbinda, in the Lusu area.