It is over a decade now since wild animals from Murchison Falls National Park have been destroying crops and above all killing residents bordering the park in Nwoya District.
This has for all that long been resulting incessant food insecurity and panic as such animals as elephants, rhinoceroses and buffaloes continued devouring farmers’ crops and lending their lives.
The most recent scenario was on November 31, 2020, when a stray elephant killed Geoffrey Aruwa 47, a resident of Aringo-kec village in Obira parish, Got Apwoyo sub-county in Nwoya district.
The father of 10 together with four other people was trying to chase the elephants away from his rice garden when he met his death.
The problem became common in 2007 when living around the national game park started resettling to their homesteads from the former Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps after almost 20 years of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel activities in northern Uganda.
According to incidence tracking of the wild animal encroachment into people’s land, a six month report conducted in 2019 by ACTIVISTA – a group under Action Aid indicates that between 80-100 acres of crops is destroyed by wildlife in Nwoya district every month.
The report further revealed that at least 100 elephants crossed from the park every month; which is seen as a source of insecurity to the community.
This is a manifested sign that UWA needs to do all the possible to ensure that the entire area bordering the park is installed with electric fences for people living near the game park to lead a meaningful life.
As part of the intervention in containing the animals from crossing into the community, the government of Uganda came up with several measures including trench digging, training community scouts, growing chili and shooting to scare among others.
But all these measures proved ineffective until government has adopted the construction of an electric fence around the park.
In 2019, the government of Uganda earmarked Shs50b for the first phase in fencing off the Murchison National Game Park boundary with electrified barbed wire covering 10km in Oyam and 20km in Nwoya districts.
The Nwoya Project kicked off on January 26, 2020 from Yagupino in Pabit West village, Purongo town council and was to go up to Lagaji village in Purongo sub-county with the next phase in 2021 to pick up from the endpoint.
The barbed wire is operated with the help of an alarm and other gadgets powered by a solar panel planted in a small control room inside the park according to Abura Solomon, a ranger attached to the side.
In less than 10 metres to the fence; maize, rice and millet among other crops are grown and they look good.
The area has once again been revived to productivity after more than 10 years since farmers abandoned the land because of the animals crossing and destroying the crops.
“The electric fence has finally answered my prayers. As you can see, my crops have grown just a stone throw away from the fence and nothing like animal problem is disturbing,” says Simon Kidega, a local farmer in Pabit West cum Te-Acan Village Chief.
Mr Kidega’s wants the government to fence off the entire boundary so they can have enough food and a relatively improved source of livelihood.
Irene Acaa, a farmer in the same area is equally delighted that the electric fence is gradually turning them away from the agony of losing crops to animals as they eagerly concentrate on farming without any vermin incursion.
Ms Esther Akello, a single mother is optimistic that she will afford raising school fees for her six children given that the area is fenced off from wild animals that have been destroying her crops which was a source of her income.
“It’s never been an easy moment. In fact, I used to have sleepless nights during school days due to the ever demand for school fees for my children and yet I could not get money since the animals used to destroy my crops which was an economic activity for me,” said Ms Akello.
Ms Akello told this website that her eldest daughter married at a tender age in 2019 after failing to proceed to senior one since she could not raise school fees for her after completing her Primary Leaving Examination.
“It’s not and has never been my wish and still pains me up to now because I could not make good use of my land in meeting the basic needs due to the persistent problem of animals that used to cross from the park and destroy my crops”.
Mr Charles Wilson Odoki is the Pabit West village chairman, said the fencing of the boundary has helped strike a blow at animal incursion.
“For close to a year, we have not registered any single problem of animals destroying our crops because of the electric fence at the boundary between the national park and human settlement land.”
As farmers in Yagupino village celebrate the blockage of animals from stepping in their gardens, those in Lawaca village about two kilometres away are still feeling the brunt of the vermin since the area is yet to be fenced off.
Wild animals especially elephants have continued to cause havoc as they cross from the park to the neighbouring community land.
Mr Charles Oyet, a father of seven told our reporter that he often hires gardens in another village to plant crops for fear of stray elephants.
“This year, I planted two acres of groundnuts that was all destroyed by the elephants yet all these are efforts to keep my children from starving” Mr Oyet said.
Mr Michael Obita, is a local farmer at Latoro Central village in Got Apwoyo sub-county explained that because of the marauding elephants, they used to spend nights in their gardens.
“Apart from sleeping in the garden, we often reunited and moved in a team to drive the elephants when they crossed to our gardens” Mr Obita said.
Electric fence efficiency
Bashir Hangi, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Communications Officer, says government plans to fence off all animal crossing points – a project that will be done in phases since it has been proved to be more effective in stopping wild game from moving out from protected areas.
“You know the electric fence is something we do in a phased manner. Mind you one kilometre of electric fence requires Shs50m. So it’s something that needs resources and can only be done in a phased manner. The plan of the government is to ensure that most of the area known to be of problem animal spot is fenced off. We will do more electric fencing since it has been proven effective but this does not mean we shall abandon other control measures like growing chili among others,” said Mr Hangi.
“We did a possibility study and carried out a benchmark where we realised it works very well, even when you go to Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Park, people are testifying on its efficacy and it’s the way to go,” the UWA spokesperson added.