MATSILOJE: Tragedy has once again struck the people of Matsiloje and surrounding villages after marauding elephants invaded their fields leading to massive losses.
This latest tragedy comes hot on the heels of tropical cyclone Dineo this year, which caused damage in a lot of Southern African Development Community countries.
Last year, the villagers suffered yet another devastating blow after the closure of Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC). TNMC not only offered employment but also sponsored free medical services at Matsiloje clinic.
In 2002 and 2011, the villagers’s cattle were culled to control the spread of contagious Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). This, they still insist and maintain, subjected them to a life of abject poverty.
Yesterday during a kgotla meeting that was addressed by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, the villagers told him yet another harrowing ordeal that befell them.
Khama was in Matsiloje to solicit views from the villagers on how they can help his ministry to come up with solutions to address the problem of roaming elephants. During the meeting, the village leadership told Khama how they received low yields because of Dineo.
They said their misery has been compounded further by elephants, which have destroyed their fields and literally ate all their crops.
The village chief, Eric Moipolai said farmers from his village and surrounding areas are counting losses because large herds of elephants have and continue to destroy their fields and feed on their crops. He said farmers abandoned their fields in fear of their lives because. He proposed the killing of the elephants, though he knew the move would be strongly resisted by conservationists.
The chief made an impassioned plea to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help Botswana to overcome the problem of elephants that are impoverishing many households. On related issues, the chief said the district is serviced by six wildlife officers from Masunga who are not enough for such a large area.
He said to compound the officers’ woes; they only have four cars that they use to chase elephants from the fields but two of them have since been boarded.
Village Development Committee chairperson Joel Mpetsane said the elephants have instilled fear amongst the farmers, saying urgent attention in needed because they recently came in front of the gate of Matsiloje junior secondary school.
He said response from wildlife officers to assess damage is slow and can take up to three weeks. “This has the potential to make any evidence left in the wake of the destruction by elephants to disappear,” Mpetsane said.
During the question and answer session, villagers proposed that the elephants should be killed and their meat and other by-products sold because they add no value to the tourism industry around their area.
However, this proposal did no succeed as area MP Samson Moyo Guma and Khama said the villagers should learn to co-exist with the elephants just like in Pandamatenga areas. Khama said Government does not downplay the incessant elephants/human conflict, hence his visit to the village to get ideas on how to prevent the elephants from inflicting more damage to people’s lives.
He added that he would go and ask for more money from Cabinet to fight the destruction caused by the elephants.