NWOYA – Farmers in Nwoya district want the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities to fast track the Wildlife Act so that they are compensated for the crops, injuries and lives lost to wild animals.
This follows the persistent invasion of wild animals including elephants, buffaloes and lions among others.
The latest incidences were in the villages of Lapono, Dongolem and Agung where more than 3000 acres of rice and soya bean have been destroyed by elephants numbering 7, that invaded the area.
Francis Ojok Opira, the LCI Chairperson of Lapono village in Pabali parish, Anaka sub-county says, the crops destroyed were in their final stages of maturing and readying for harvests. At least 28 people have been affected by the destruction inflicted by the elephants from the neighboring Murchison falls national game park.
“The elephants came from the park and destroyed more than 3000 acres of rice and soya beans belonging to the 28 people. We are still continuing with profiling the level of destruction by the elephants,” Ojok said.
“This is not the first time these elephants escape from the park to destroy crops from our gardens. In August this year, they came and destroyed more than 5000 acres of crops and even injured people who tried to chase them away,” Ojok noted
Locals had to contact Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers to come to their rescue and drive away the elephants from the community.
Juliet Atim, a resident of Agung village says, the persistent invasion has thrown them into losses and increasing the risk of hunger in their families.
Atim lost 10 acres of rice and soy bean that she had hoped to get money to send her children back to school.
“I had hopes of taking my children back to school when I sell my soya beans and rice. Now I am not sure if it will be possible because the elephants have destroyed my crops,” said Atim.
Justine Ajaji, the LCIII Chairperson of Lii sub-county in Nwoya district says, it’s been too long ever since the government stated that people affected by invasion of wild animals would be compensated.
Ajaji believes that hundreds of people have lost millions in cash crops destroyed especially by elephants with others injured and killed in the attacks in the recent past.
John Bosco Okullu, the former LCIII Chairperson of Koch Goma sub-county and also a farmer in Langele, in Lii sub-county expressed concerns at government’s slow pace at compensating those who lost properties in the past.
“Since 2019 March, the government started talking about the Wildlife Act which has components of compensating people whose properties have been destroyed by wild animals from game parks. When will we be compensated? The future of our children is being jeopardized as our livelihoods are destroyed. This has taken too long,” Okullu observes.
While presenting a statement on the implementation of the Wildlife Act in March 2020, Tourism and Wildlife Minister, Tom Butime said the ministry had begun processes of developing regulations to operationalize the compensation clauses but the scheme is not yet active.
“We could not start compensating Ugandans without accumulating money to the Compensation Fund. We started with setting aside 22% of the wildlife revenue to the fund starting this financial year 2019/2020,” said Butime.
The Minister added that the compensation regulations were expected to be completed by the end of the current financial year. The review process of revenue sharing regulations would have been finalized by then.
In an interview with our reporter, Martin Magara, the State Minister Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities said, the government is still looking for funds to help fund the claims for compensation by people affected by the invasion of wild animals.
“We are currently looking for funds to pay for the compensation claims of hundreds of people who have been affected by the invasion of wild animals. Some people have lost lives, others were injured, while others lost food crops and properties to the wild animals,” Magara notes.
Several people in the districts of Amuru, Nwoya, Kitgum, Masindi, Kitagwenda among others have been heavily affected by the invasion of wild animals from the Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Kidepo national game parks in recent times.
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