Farmers resort to drums, vuvuzelas to fend off ravenous elephants

Farmers from Chakama area in Kilifi County during a meeting with national government officials.



Photo credit: Maureen Ongala I Nation Media Group

Chengo Tayari, 62, a farmer in the semi-arid Kanduru area of Kilifi County, is an angry man.

Stray elephants have been invading his farm and those of his neighbours and destroying crops.

For the last two years, he has been on standby to respond to distress calls from villagers.

“We always risk our lives to save our crops, but the more we go after the animals, the more we are endangering ourselves,” he said.

His experience is similar to that of ex-senior chief Macdonald Mwaringa, 60, of Chakama.

He says locals are encouraged to play their part to scare off the animals. One way is to beat drums, play vuvuzelas or shine large spotlights on them.

But the impact is limited.

“I have lived in Chakama for many years, and I am shocked that people drive away elephants from their farms like goats using a stick because they want to protect food for their children,” he said.

For more than two years now, elephants from Tsavo National Park have invaded farms and villages in Ganze and Kaloleni sub-counties in search of pasture and water.

In neighbouring Magarini, hippos searching for pasture invade farms along the River Sabaki.

The deeply rooted human-wildlife conflict has caused massive losses for villagers and injuries to animals.

It is the reality that villagers have to live with, attributing it to climatic changes that have in turn led to food and water shortages. 

Last week, residents of Kanduru urged the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to find a long-term solution and contain the animals in their habitats.

They said elephants are a nuisance and are threatening the multimillion-shilling national government’s Chakama Irrigation Scheme project.

The Coast Development Authority (CDA) supports farmers in the three irrigation schemes of Gaba, Gibora, and Kanduru.

The project’s secretary Kaka Mure said the jumbos might undermine the farming schemes.

“We applaud CDA for their support, but this might be useless if elephants moving from Tsavo East National Park will always destroy our crops,” he said.

The project’s chairman Solomon Mubashiri said elephants had injured four farmers in the previous two weeks.

Another farmer, Ms Margret Kanyowe, said farmers work hard but the tuskers were cutting the gains made in ensuring food security.

Chakama Assistant County Commissioner Daniel Ntausi assured residents that security agencies in the region would collaborate with them to resolve the issue.

Kilifi meteorological services Director Getrude Leshampta said Magarini, Ganze and other dry areas in the county experienced poor rains that led to crop failure.

Plans were underway to set up a KWS camp in Chakama, said KWS Senior Warden Jane Gitau.

“We will set up an outpost in Chakama and the officers will be mobile for the residents to access services easily,” she said.

Ms Gitau said residents always called KWS officers in Malindi and they took a long time to respond to emergencies.

She added that farmers would be compensated for injuries caused by wild animals and for crop losses.
 

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