MAUN, Botswana, March 4 — The planting season is a nightmare for most farmers in the North West District of Botswana due to elephants’ invasion.
Kungo Difongo, who is an arable farmer at Sexaxa lands in the North West District, said in an interview at Sexaxa that she was afraid that her labor may never pay off as her crops have been reduced to almost nothing in some instances over the years.
The 65-year-old Difongo, who is a farmer of repute, said she ensures her large farm was tilled every year and practices row planting.
She noted with sadness that all her labor continues to be in vain annually since elephants raid her crops before her produce can mature.
Difongo said the elephants have already invaded her farm on two occasions this year while her crops were still at the infancy stage.
She said government’s efforts in assisting them go to waste since farmers make a loss. Difongo said the money she spends on hiring people to assist in clearing weeds amounted to 1,900 pula (around 180 US dollars) this year, saying she may never recover it if elephants continue to raid her farm.
She said although she keeps reporting to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) for compensation, it is a long process.
Difongo is of the view that safari companies and their activities have invaded elephants’ habitats, which has in turn driven elephants to residential areas.
Difongo also said government should allow farmers to scare elephants away through shooting, noting that elephants feared gun sounds.
For 76-year-old Etsenang Masike, a farmer at Sexaxa, who is also a farmer of repute for over 20 years, said elephants usually raid their farms between March and April.
However, Masike said due to droughts, elephants have resorted to raiding their farms as early as January, saying her farm has already been invaded by the animals in early February.
Masike said government assistance to farmers in ploughing is an unfortunate act since farmers make a loss due to elephants. She also said the compensation was not enough for survival.
She said she annually spends money on 1,000 logs to strengthen her three-hectare farm, but that elephant still found a way.
Masike noted however that wildlife contributes to the country’s revenue and developments, which she said is an indirect benefit to farmers. She said the government should consider drilling boreholes for elephants at their habitats as an intervention to reduce the destruction endured by farmers.
In an interview, DWNP Problem Animal Control officer in Maun, Gilbert Monnawalesole confirmed the department received concerns from farmers about wild animals on almost a daily basis.
Monnawalesole observed that compensating farmers remains a challenge since the budget is always depleted as cases are reported regularly.
Nonetheless, he said when funds are available the compensation process is faster.
He observed that the office has successfully managed to pay some outstanding compensations in the 2018/19 budget. Monnawalesole encourages farmers to use interventions such as chili pepper, traditional methods of drumming and making burrows around the farms, noting that the latter has proven to be effective. – XINHUA