Namibian farmers grappling with human-wildlife conflict amid persistent drought

by Ndalimpinga Iita
WINDHOEK, July 14 — While conservation areas have derived benefits for local communities in Kunene Region in the north-eastern part of Namibia, the residents, in particular farmers, are grappling with human-wildlife conflict, exacerbated by persistent drought in the country.

Sakeus Tjavari, a farmer from Otjokovare in Kunene region, lost his livestock to wild animals from conservation areas surrounding his village over the past months.

Elephants, hyenas, and lions escape from the conservancies in search of water and grazing amid a dry spell.

“As such, we experience a huge number of human-wildlife conflict cases. Elephants and other animals come to the village and destroy the water pipes, crops, and fences, leading to major losses,” Tjavari said on Thursday.

Records by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism show that about 1,246 heads of livestock were lost country-wide and crop fields destroyed by various wildlife animals, mainly elephants between the periods April 2018 to March 2019.

Furthermore, of the human-wildlife encounters, 12 people were injured by wild animals nationwide during the same period.

Human-wildlife conflict has made it difficult for residents to survive as wild animals move closer to human settlements due to drought, declared by Namibian President Hage Geingob as a national disaster in May this year.

Namibia experienced persistent drought since 2013, adversely affecting about 60 percent of the households dependent on agriculture for a livelihood.

According to Tjavari, since, residents are struggling to mitigate and manage the conflict, given that the community is central to national conservation efforts and broader tourism sector in the country.

Julius Kaujova, Sesfontein Constituency councilor, said that human-wildlife conflict is a certainty in the region, and even more socio-economically conflicting as the communities depend on dividends from the conservancies and protection of the wild and natural resources.

The regions most affected are Kavango East & West, Oshana, Erongo, Kunene, Khomas, Ohangwena, Omusati, Zambezi, Otjozondjupa, and Hardap.
Meanwhile, Tjavari called on the government to devise a strategy to reduce the number of predators.

Kaujova said that, in efforts to mitigate the impacts, through traditional authorities and conservancies, communities are trained on how to handle and guard against problematic animals.

“Government has also made an effort to provide water to humans and relocated some wild animals over time,” Kaujova said.
In the interim, the government has also has put in place compensatory measures for losses incurred by farmers, in line with the country’s human-wildlife conflict policy, said Romeo Muyunda, public relations officer in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. – XINHUA