By Fredrick Manda – Mana.
Community members in Nkhotakota have asked government to intervene on the perpetual destruction of their crops by elephants that come out from Nkhotakota game reserve.
The plea comes after the elephants this week broke out from the game reserve and damaged crops of close to 200 households within a period of three days in the villages of Kucherachera, Nzeru, Chulu, M’bobo and Nkhongo 3 in the area of Traditional Authority(T/A) Malengachanzi in the district.
Traditional Authority Mwansambo who is also chairman for African Parks Liaison Committee (APLC) in Nkhotakota has said government through parliament must intervene as cases of such incidents rise and put human life as well as their crops at risk.
Mwansambo believes it will take time to solve the problem as people around the game have encroached the reserve and elephants have mastered to defeat the electric fence.
“Liaison committee is yet to have a meeting with the members of parliament surrounding the game reserve to discuss the way forward on the matter and urge government through parliament to intervene to either relocate the people who have encroached the game or give the land to the chiefs,” he said.
He added that all liaison committees through the park director must lobby with members of parliament to initiate a compensation policy, saying the victims are not fully helped when their crops have been damaged.
According to District Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) Officer, George Zibophe, there are close to 1000 households whose crops have been affected in the areas of Mwansambo, Malengachanzi and Mphonde traditional authorities. He said elephants have destroyed cassava, rice, sweet potato and banana fields.
“There is need for a sustainable solution because it is a recurrent problem and a lot of people come to my office to report about elephants destroying their crops,” he said.
Zibophe said after the assessment the report was sent to Dodma for immediate response which will include food items like maize and flour to cushion them from hunger.
In his remarks, Park Manager, Sam Kamoto said he is aware of the incident, saying they have been having problems with the elephants which perpetually come out of the game.
“We are aware of the several incidents especially in the south east of the game and at the moment, we have already called for government hunters to help us deal with those animals and government has promised to send the hunters,” he said.
One of the victims, George Chinkhata whose two rice fields were heavily damaged said the incident has left him destitute.
He complained that his seven member family looked up to the fields for their daily survival.
“Many of us in the villages make a living through farming and we take care of our families with harvests from the fields. But now our community is no longer exciting. Innocent people are being injured, killed and their fields destroyed,” he lamented.
“As of now, I have nothing, I depend on my rice gardens to pay school fees for two of my children and I took a loan from Microloan finance, so with this scenario, I will not manage to pay back in time,” he said.
Chinkhata has urged government and African Parks to find lasting solution that will completely stop animals coming out of the reserve instead of only relying on the game rangers who are sometimes overpowered by these elephants.
He has since pleaded for immediate response from Dodma.
In February this year, an elephant attacked and trampled a 21 year old woman to death at Bamba village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwadzama.