Farmers want government to dig trenches around villages neighboring Murchison Falls National Park

MASINDI – Farmers neighboring Murchison falls national park in Kiruli sub-county in Masindi district want the government to dig trenches around the villages adjacent to the park to deter elephants from destroying their crops.

They made the call during a meeting between the State Minister for Tourism and Antiquities, Martin Bahinduka Mugarra, the area Member of Parliament, Aled Ronald Akugizibwe, the district leaders and residents of Kitengule village in Kiruli sub-county.

The meeting followed several complaints by the residents over the increasing loitering of stray elephants from the park.

For many years, residents of five villages; Bagidadi, Kitengule, Ipedi, Kimina and Nyakarongo which are bordering Murchison falls national park have been complaining over the increasing number of elephants that cross from the park and destroy their crops.

“Elephants have brought food insecurity and also caused insecurity in the area. People have resorted to stealing food. Last season, we lost completely because elephants would come in a herds of 30 to 50 elephants,” Deo Opusi said.

Opusi added that the elephants come along with black flies which are dangerous to them, adding that apparently, they can no longer rare pigs due to black flies.

“Whenever pigs are bitten by these black flies they die. We are are always worried,” he added.

He further added that as a community adjacent to the park they no longer benefit from the money sent to the district, noting that instead the money is benefiting less affected communities.

Monica Bagonza, a resident of Nyakarongo village explained that the women are the most affected.

“We get income from farming but currently we are harvesting nothing due to the elephants. Even looking after our families is becoming a challenge. An immediate solution must be found or else we are going to die a miserable way,” said Bagonza.

Musa Bigabwa, a resident of Nyakarongo village asked the Minister to expeditiously handle the issue of putting up an electric wire or a trench along the villages neighboring the park like the way it was done in Kiryandongo district.

“We also want to be compensated for the losses we have incurred. We have lost lives in the process of chasing away the elephants from our gardens. Whenever we lose properties or lives, we write to the relevant offices in vain. For us we shall suffer until when?” Bigabwa asked.

Julius Wabyoona, a resident of Kitengule village explained that some people have been imprisoned for resorting to cutting trees to make charcoal in the park.

“Those people should be pardoned. We need an affirmative action as people of Kiruli Sub County, because what we are going through is so challenging. We have failed to develop ourselves due to these elephants. If a trench can’t be put there, at least an electric wire should be put in place. If nothing is done this situation is likely to get out of hand,” said Wabyoona.

Alex Musumali, the Vice Chairperson LC III, Kiruli Sub County faulted the wardens for not helping them saying that whenever they, they don’t respond in time.

“Sometimes they tell us they have no fuel and yet crops are being destroyed. These people have been good enough. They don’t kill these animals but if the status quo is maintained something bad may happen. What we want is a lasting solution because we have been patient enough,” said Musumali.

Cosmas Byaruhanga, the Masindi district LCV Chairperson, told the Minister that they have been engaging the affected communities to harmoniously stay with the wild animals from the park as government looks for a lasting solution.

“We have written to the relevant offices as far as getting a solution is concerned. My prayer is this meeting yields fruits because people have become poor and poorer due to these elephants. Some of them are grappling with loans in banks and the rate of crime is increasing,” said Byaruhanga.

Byaruhanga proposed that they use the local revenue they get from Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) to put up a trench.

But in his response Minister Mugarra said, the immediate solution government is going to do is putting up a trench along the villages bordering the park, adding that the money which comes to the district shouldn’t be used because government is going to look for money to establish a trench.

“We are looking at putting a trench as one way of deterring the loitering elephants from going to people’s gardens. I also promise to engage the Ministry of disaster preparedness to have an immediate relief for the affected communities,” he said.

He also explained that government is developing modalities of having a compensation fund for the people in case their crops are affected and also in case lives were lost.

“We expect it to start by January next year. Every money collected, 2 percent of it will go to the compensation fund,” Mugarra noted.

He also warned the district authorities not to divert the money of the trench.

“Give this money to the community members to develop themselves. Don’t divert it. Government is going to put a trench using another money,” explained Mugarra.

Edison Nuwamanya, the Chief Warden, Murchison falls national park re-echoed the minister’s promise of putting the trench saying, they are going to do as it was done in Kiryandongo district.

“Now all elephants come to Masindi because they can no longer cross to Kiryandongo. I am also going to ensure that my rangers are deployed here 24 hrs but not to just come. When we are doing recruitment, we shall ensure that the neighbouring communities are given priority as the minister has asked,” Nuwamanya explained.

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