After Driehoek’s water infrastructure was destroyed by elephants, the community has been forced to use salty water or trek 6km to get drinkable water at a nearby village, using donkey carts.
That was 23 years ago.
Driehoek is a village of about 80 residents in the Sesfontein constituency in the Kunene region. The area measures about 1960 hectares. The spokesperson of the Driehoek village development committee, Gotthardt Tjinyama lamented how the government has neglected their plight for more than two decades.
“Our plight has fallen on deaf ears. We really feel ignored but we are told there is nothing that can be done because there are elephants in the area,” said Tjinyama.
The community has now turned to the government and the private sector to set up elephant proof water infrastructure to address their plight. Because of the salty water in the area, locals often find themselves sick.
The nearest clinic is about 10km away. They are thus appealing to the authorities to provide them with water tanks. They are also pleading with the government, as it has been done in other areas, to relocate the elephants. “We do not mean this in a bad way. We cannot live like this, not when nothing is being done. Government must take their elephants, buy farms and camp them there,” said Tjinyama.
He added while their concerns are not being addressed, the government is relocating elephants near commercial farms but leaving people in the communal areas to suffer. He said they live within a conservancy and the human-wildlife conflict has stalled development at their village.
As it is, the community does not have a garden to sustain itself and cannot engage in other agricultural projects.
“We want to grow food for our families but even that is impossible with the elephants if we do not have an elephant proof wall,” he said.
Tjinyama said not much is left for them, but that is the only home they have. “Our water infrastructure is destroyed. The auctioning kraal was moved. The grazing camps have been destroyed. Even the vegetation and trees are down,” Tjinyama lamented.
He said they have taken their plight to every concerned office, but no one has come to their rescue. On a positive note, Tjinyama said he is advocating for village development and calls on those in the villages across the country to stand up and develop their villages.
He said it is unjust that everyone has to migrate to towns, leaving villages underdeveloped. “While we wait on the government to assist us, let us also help ourselves,” he said.
Ministry of environment public relations officer, Romeo Muyunda said the ministry and the government at large understand the plight of the affected communities. Muyunda said the ministry is always ready to engage the affected community and find an amicable solution.
He stressed that the ministry, in consultation with the ministry of agriculture, through the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) and other development partners have provided water to communities living with wild animals. “The existence of elephants in an area should not inhibit services to the people in any way,” he stressed.
On the relocation of the elephants, Muyunda said removing the elephants is not an option at this stage.
He said the ministry will continue to implore measures to minimise human wildlife conflict.