Stray elephants destroy acres of crops in Nwoya


Michael Ojok, Monitor

Date Published
More than 500 acres of crops, mainly maize, soybeans, bananas, and potatoes in Ceke and Pakawera villages in Langele and Got Lunyang, Gony Cogo in Lutuk have been destroyed.

A herd of about 45 elephants from Murchison Falls National Park has been destroying crops in the neighbouring Lii, Lutuk and Langele parishes in Lii Sub-county, Nwoya District, in the past two weeks.

More than 500 acres of crops, mainly maize, soybeans, bananas, and potatoes in Ceke and Pakawera villages in Langele and Got Lunyang, Gony Cogo in Lutuk have been destroyed.

Mr Peter Ewalu James, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Karuma reserve manager, said the poor road network in Lii has affected their response to community outcries.

Rangers from Karuma range post have to use Pajok road, which is about 80km away from Lii Trading Centre to respond .

From the trading centre, they use remote routes on motorcycles because the road which connects to Lii Main was cut off by floods.

Mr Ewalu also said the number of rangers deployed in various areas of the park is too little to effectively respond to the elephant invasions.

“The elephants  don’t cross from one area into the community, they normally spread and cross from various points and in groups. Our human resource at our range posts is not enough to drive the elephants back to the game park,” he said.

Mr Justine Odong, the LC3 chairperson of Lii, said appeals to the district to grade the roads have been futile.

Mr Odong said they have allocated Shs14 million to maintain the trenches, which were dug to prevent the wild animals from entering into the community area. The trenches are in Ceke in Langele and Got Lunyang and Gony Cogo in Lutuk Parishes, respectively.

“We also hope that electric fences [of UWA] will reach the most affected areas by August, a time when hundreds of them (elephants) cross into community land. This will help us settle the wild animal-human conflict that has affected us for decades,” Mr  Odong said.

As residents wait for UWA interventions, they have resorted to spending nights in gardens to keep away stray elephants.

While on guard, they bang objects such as jerrycans and saucepans to scare away the animals, others catapult the elephants and boys blow vuvuzelas to drive the elephants back to the game park. Mr George Anywar, the Ceke Village vice-chairperson, said farmers are periodically asked to contribute Shs5,000 to buy noise making materials.

Mr Anywar, however, said their intervention is only temporary .

“We want the electric fencing and compensation law fast-tracked so that we can be compensated for the losses. We also want a long-term solution to the invasion,” he said.

Mr Denis Ojok, a volunteer trainee at UWA, said materials such as gumboots, torches, and vuvuzelas, among others are now too expensive for them to afford due to the rising commodity prices.

“Currently, a pair of gumboots goes for between Shs20,000 and Shs25,000, while a vuvuzela costs Shs15,000, and a torch Shs10,000. We can hardly afford to routinely buy these items given the hard financial times,” Mr Ojok said.

He said two years ago, UWA promised to supply them with these materials but have not yet received them.

Mr Geoffrey Charles Okello, the Nwoya East MP, advised the farmers to plant trees with deterrent scents on the boundaries as they wait for the electric fence to be installed .

He said the UWA, the Ministry of Tourism and the Office of the Attorney General are developing a statutory instrument which will guide the compensation process of the affected communities.