Elephants Leave Farmers Empty-Handed (Botswana)


Pini Bothoko, Mmegi Online

Date Published

For the last few weeks, elephants have been destroying crops in Maitengwe, Nkange, Senete and Changate villages, leaving a majority of the farmers empty-handed.

The damage caused by the elephants necessisated a delegation from the Tutume Sub-District to drive to Gaborone for guidance and assistance from the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama.

Delegation head and chairperson of Tutume Sub-District Council, Ishmael Mokgethi told The Monitor that most farmers were left counting extensive losses after elephants sacked their fields, destroying fences and crops.

“We decided to visit the minister to voice out our concerns because the elephants left farmers empty-handed.

We requested our area Member of Parliament, Edwin Batshu, to set an appointment with the minister on our behalf, but he failed as he was reported to have been too busy to meet us.

Mokgethi added: “We are so disappointed because we would have loved to meet Khama in person and talk to him and share the farmers’ concerns and their pleas for his intervention”.

He said that they are worried because the Department of Wildlife and National Parks is failing to help the farmers as elephants continue to invade people’s fields, destroying crops.

Reached for comment, chief wildlife officer at the wildlife department, Rex Mokandla said that the elephants might have strayed into the villages in search of water. He said the damage is massive and will cost the Ministry a lot of money compensating the affected farmers.

“Last month, the area received plenty of rains. The affected villages are situated along the border, hence we suspect the elephants might have crossed into the country from Zimbabwe,” Mokandla.

He said that they are aware of elephants that have been roaming around the area, appearing to have been migrating from dry areas to those with plenty of water.

“We have resident elephants at Sepako, Tsebanana and at Ngwasha settlements and suspect those elephants might be coming from those settlements, or from Zimbabwe,” Mokandla said.

He said around February, the elephants invaded Matsitama and surrounding areas, but did not destroy anything.

“We did an arial view by helicopter and saw them going towards Makgadikgadi Pan. We observed their behaviour, and since they were not harassing we left them alone, hence not sure whether they might have migrated to the affected areas or not.

Our officers recently did an aerial view around Maitengwe village and saw elephants from the Zimbabwean side coming into the country,” Mokandla.

Mokandla said very soon they would launch an operation to chase the elephants away from the affected areas with the help of other concerned Ministries.

“The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) agreed to help us with around 100 soldiers to join us in the operation. They will also help us with about three helicopters to simplify the search,” Mokandla said.

He said that they have identified a number of areas in the district, another one at Patayamatebele village, Dikgathong Dam and at Gweta to use as base camps where officers will be based in 24-hour operations to monitor their movement.

“Our intention is to make sure that those that are from Zimbabwe, we chase them back and those that are from the game reserve, we make sure that they do not go out to destroy people’s fields.

We have requested the MP of the affected farmers, Batshu to talk to the residents to identify areas that we can use as our base camps in responding to the crisis,” Mokandla.

Mokandla promised the affected farmers that they are working around the clock to deal with the situation.