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Nwoya locals, leaders reject trenches, demand for electric fence

NWOYA – Residents of five sub-counties in Nwoya district are demanding electric fence installation, instead of trenches being dug by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

In the past six months, 3,014 acres of food crops have been destroyed by elephants, baboons, buffalos and warthogs to mention but a few in the sub-counties of Anaka, Purongo, Got Apwoyo, Koch Goma, Lii.

Jackson Kinyera, the LCI Chairperson of Patira West in Purongo sub-county says, they have lost more than 400 acres of food crops including rice, sorghum, millet, soybeans among others.

Kinyera says, the men have resorted to spending their nights in the gardens to prevent them from being destroyed by the stray animals.

According to Kinyera, the elephants have now become more sensitive to sound which makes them violent and have begun attacking farmers.

“We are risking our lives to protect the food crops in the gardens from being destroyed by the stray wild animals because they mostly move at night.  We have recently reported 7 injuries sustained from attacks from mostly elephants in recent times with one death,” said Kinyera.

Peter Bongomin, a resident of Okii village in Anaka sub-county in Nwoya district who recently lost 4.5 acres of food crops to the elephants says, the elephants have mastered the art of dodging the trenches by filling them up.

He says, his garden is surrounded with trenches but is still attacked by the elephants.

Emmanuel Orach, Nwoya district LCV Chairperson says, with the current trend of destruction by the wild animals, the fight against household poverty can never be won.

Orach notes that so far 14 people have been killed and scores injured by the wild animals from the park.

Orach proposes that if the government cannot protect the animals from encroaching into community areas, they should consider trans-locating the elephants which have proven to be the most dangerous in the human-wildlife conflict.

Judith Peace Achan, the Nwoya district Woman Member of Parliament also wants UWA to change the poles they are using currently to concrete poles. This she says, will guarantee its durability.

“What UWA is currently installing wooden poles with some already used while others have developed cracks. We would want them to plant for us concrete poles so that we know the government is investing in a long-lasting solution to the human-wildlife conflict in the district,” notes Achan.

Currently, Nwoya district has only 23km of electric poles planted, wired and powered with solar. The district shares a total of 110km of borderline with the Murchison Falls National Game Park.

According to UWA, 1 km of electric fence costs Shs 50 million.

John Makombo, the Director Conservations, Uganda Wildlife Authority concurs with the affected locals and the district leaders on the need to suspend trench digging and focus on electric fence installation.

Makombo reveals that, they have currently received funds from the World Bank for the installation of 88km of electric poles between Oyam and Olwiyo in Nwoya district. According to Makombo, the installation will be complete before the end of this financial year.

“We have observed that these elephants fill up the trenches for them to access community land, destroying crops and injuring people. So, we have all resolved that trenches don’t work and the next plan which is a long lasting one is planting electric fences along the border lines,” Makombo explains.

Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities speaking to the affected communities in the different sub-counties said, the government is committed to ending the human-wildlife conflict.

According to Mugarra, the slow pace in planting the electric fence has majorly been due to lack of funds which is as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which hit the tourism sector hard.

“Like any other sector, we have been hit hard by Covid-19 which has affected our resource mobilization, that’s why some of the projects had to be halted. We have also halted the procurement of helicopters which we thought would help us with monitoring the wild animals. So, it’s not that we don’t want to end this conflict. It’s because of resource constraints,” Minister Mugarra explains.

Over the years, the human-wildlife conflict has persisted in Nwoya district leaving several animals and human beings dead, scores injured, and thousands of acres of crops destroyed.

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