Farmers count losses as marauding elephants invade farms

Mr Jim Muchui shows a herd of elephants that has been terrorising residents at Mweronkoro. Several farmers are counting losses due to the elephant invasion. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Farmers in Thau, Lairang'i, Mumui and Mweronkoro villages in Tigania West, Meru County, are counting losses as elephants continue to invade farms.

The elephants target farms near the Mburunaro stream, where residents use irrigation water to grow crops due to poor rains.

The giant herbivores are said to have migrated from the north and have camped in the area, eating crops at night and retreating into the nearby bush during the day.

The Nation team on Wednesday spotted a herd of about 10 jumbos resting near Mweronkoro Primary School.

Mr Stephen Thairu, a resident of Lairang'i, said the beasts destroyed two acres of green maize.

"After the rains failed, we banked our hopes on irrigation to survive the drought. But the elephants have eaten everything and trampled on what was left. We have been irrigating the maize for the last two months and we were about to harvest. I have incurred losses of more than Sh100,000," Mr Thairu said.

He said that despite losing crops to elephants in the past, he had never been compensated.

Mr Geoffrey Kiromi, a farmer in Thau village, said he had lost tomatoes that were almost ready for the market to the elephants.

"They have destroyed the only crop I was relying on to earn a living. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers should stop sleeping on their job. The elephants invaded this area last year and killed a child," he said.

Ms Joyce Kajuju said locals were now living in fear of being attacked by the animals.

Mr Stephen Thairu, a resident of Lairang'i shows a two-acre maize farm that was destroyed by elephants. Elephants have invaded farms where residents are using irrigation. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

"Our children are not able to go to school early because of the elephants. We have day scholars who need to wake up early but they can't because of fear. The elephants have destroyed the little food that was in our farms," Ms Kajuju said.

Ward off the elephants

Mr Boniface Kaberia accused the KWS of ignoring their pleas to ward off the elephants.

"The KWS rangers have told us that we must get used to living with elephants instead of taking them away. We are now spending sleepless nights guarding our crops. This is very inconsiderate of the government," he said.

Mr Jim Muchui, a resident of Athwana, said the failure by KWS rangers to drive away the animals risks escalating human-wildlife conflict.

"The people are badly hit by drought and are now relying on streams to get some food. If the elephants continue to destroy their only source of food, things might get nasty. KWS should act with speed to address this matter," Mr Muchui said.

Meru County Commissioner Fred Ndunga said KWS was addressing the elephant invasion besides enhancing other interventions.

Elephant invasions happen regularly in Meru as the jumbos migrate from northern Kenya and Meru National Park into the Mt Kenya forest or vice versa.

The conflicts have been rampant in parts of Buuri, Tigania West, Tigania East and Imenti North.

Recently, the Meru County government launched a beekeeping project along the Imenti forest line to ward off elephants besides generating income from honey sales.