NKURENKURU - Political leaders in the Kavango West region are worried that increased forays into crop fields by elephant herds will adversely affect the livelihoods of many people in the area.
They claim the situation is exacerbated by the fact that officials in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) do not efficiently monitor the movement of the animals, making it difficult to ensure the protection of people and their crops.
Speaking at an inter-ministerial committee meeting at Nkurenkuru on Monday, Kavango West Regional Council chairperson Joseph Sivaku said close to 300 people in the Tondoro constituency alone have had their crops destroyed by elephants.
The meeting was specifically called to discuss the problem of elephants raiding people's fields and it was attended by the political leadership from Kavango West; MET officials; officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, as well as the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development.
Sivaku, who is also the councillor of Tondoro constituency, said by Monday, elephants were still grazing in the fields at Kanito, Nankupa and Kampupu villages.
Sivaku said after villagers alerted him to the presence of the elephants on Monday night, he drove to five villages to see the situation for himself.At Nakupa village he counted close to 40 elephants, while at Kampupu there were 60 elephants.
What makes people of Kavango West poor are the elephants. We as councillors encourage the communities to grow crops, and they cultivate them in order to produce food, but the food they produce is for wildlife. How can our people not be poor? the clearly frustrated councillor asked.
The Mpungu and Musese constituencies are also affected.
Sivaku told the meeting he feels nothing is being done to solve the people's problems.
Let's not take people for granted when aggrieved as leaders. When they cry, leadership is about being there (for them), he said.On her part, Kavango West governor Sirkka Ausiku asked what progress had been made following tasks previously given to MET, such as the collaring of two elephants to monitor their movement, drilling of boreholes to keep elephants away from the community, driving of the wildlife into the Mangetti National Park and the reviewing of the human-wildlife conflict policy.
The ministry was also tasked to look into speeding up the payment of compensation for people whose crops had been destroyed.Another recommendation was for the MET to look into the possibility of establishing conservancies in Kavango West.
Ausiku said the regional leadership had commenced consultations with the two traditional authorities in the region, who both expressed willingness to make land available for the establishment of conservancies.The governor also addressed the issue of increasing MET officials in areas where people are experiencing problems from invading elephants, stating that currently the few rangers deployed are overwhelmed by the problem.
MET deputy director for the north-eastern regions Apollinaris Kanyinga said the collaring of the two elephant cows was done on 16 March this year.He said it however seems the elephants have settled in the area.
But through this exercise of monitoring we will continue observing their movements, especially in the areas of Rupara, Musese, Ehafo and Gcaruha, he said.With regards to the driving of wildlife into the Mangetti National Park, Kanyinga said this attempt proved difficult as the elephants still came into the villages, but they are monitoring the situation.On the establishment of conservancies, Kanyinga said there is a need to get the buy-in of the communities, noting that they can get conditional rights to utilise other wildlife and not just elephants.
Compensation for crop damage can also be made available to conservancies by the Game Products Trust Fund for these types of problems.The process of payment when you do not have conservancies is tedious as payment is done from Windhoek, thus establishing conservancies would be a better option, Kanyinga said.