Elephants rampage in Umguza villages
Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
VILLAGERS in Maraposa, Ntuthuko and Qhubekani under Chief Deli area in Umguza District, Matabeleland North are losing their crops following a month-long invasion of their fields by a herd of elephants.
The country’s elephant population is now more than double what the country can carry resulting in an increase in wildlife-human conflict with areas bordering national parks being the worse affected.
According to the latest statistics, the population of elephants has risen to over 93 000, forcing the jumbos to stray from national parks into fields in search of grazing land.
In interviews, some of the villagers said they lost several tonnes of maize, which could have been harvested.
Chronicle news crew on Tuesday visited Maraposa and observed vast tracts of destroyed fields.
There are also fears that some learners attending school at Maraposa Primary School risk being attacked by elephants on their way to and from school.
Umguza Rural District Council’s Ward 17 Councillor Jaheni Ncube said the elephants are destroying crops and posing danger to humans.
“We have been making reports to Zimparks, but every time they make empty promises. If this problem persists, we are highly unlikely to harvest our maize. I am also deeply worried about the danger that these animals pose to villagers,” said Cllr Ncube.
A farmer, Mr John Ncube from Ntuthuko said he had been looking forward to delivering part of his maize harvest to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
“All hope is lost because of the elephants, which are destroying our crops. What is even more worrying is that jumbos are still within the territory,” he said.
For Mr Ncube, his two-hectare field has been invaded four times by the jumbos. On Tuesday, the elephants strayed into his field and destroyed maize crops planted under the Government sponsored Intwasa/Pfumvudza programme.
He said despite using traditional means of driving the animals away by mixing the jumbos’ dung with chillies, it is unhelpful.
“I was looking forward to a bumper harvest, especially as a young farmer who recently got a piece of land in my aunt’s plot here, but that is no longer possible because of these elephants,” said Mr Ncube
“I have decided to harness the little that is remaining by harvesting early. I wanted to start harvesting next month.”
Mr Ncube said they have engaged both the local village head and ward councillor who promised to make notify Zimparks.
Mr Dickson Ngwenya from Qhubekani Village, was almost in tears as he narrated his ordeal after elephants invaded his field.
He said he was anticipating harvesting 9 tonnes of maize.
“When I first saw the destruction caused by elephants on my crops, I almost fainted. We are no longer sleeping at night as we have to stand vigil around bonfires to scare away elephants, but they have already caused terrible damage already,” said Mr Ngwenya.
Mrs Juliet Ngwenya said she doesn’t even have an idea how she will survive the period before the next farming season.
Another villager, Ms Siphiwe Moyo said Zimparks rangers are delaying in terms of addressing their plight.
Ntuthuko village head, Mrs Ncube said: “As you have seen, a lot of villagers are facing starvation because of the damage caused by elephants in their field. We contacted council rangers, but for reasons best known to themselves, they don’t seem to be worried as they are taking forever to address the situation.”
Human-wildlife conflict has been of major concern in areas bordering game parks in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South promises.
In Lupane, Matabeleland North and Bulilima, Matabeleland South, a number of villagers have recently reported an unprecedented killing of their livestock by stray lions.
Mr Faith Dube from Tsukuru Village in Bulilima said a number of cattle and donkeys have been killed by lions in broad daylight.
“These lions are a menace, our livestock have been killed and numerous reports have been made to Bulilima Rural District Council, but nothing has been done,” he said.
In Lupane, a pride of 22 lions has reportedly killed a number of cattle in the district while school children are no longer attending classes.
Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu said the country’s elephant carrying capacity is 45 000.
He said some councils have Campfire projects with their own rangers whose primary responsibility is to attend to human-wildlife conflict.
“Another area that tends to affect us is that you have people settling in wildlife areas. Some animals like elephants from time to time migrate from one area to another and they normally use a corridor where people would have settled,” he said.–@skhumoyo2000.