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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Farmer injured as Elephants invade farms in Wangwaci

By Bob Aston
A middle aged man was attacked and seriously injured by an elephant in Wangwaci location, Sipili division on Wednesday morning. Paul Wahome was in his farm when it was invaded by three elephants around 6:00 am. He raised an alarm and local residents joined him in trying to drive the elephants away. Along the way one elephant turned back and attacked him.
Paul was lifted by the elephant and hurled up in the air three times. He started screaming for help, and neighbours came in and rescued him from being trampled on by the elephant. He was later on taken for treatment at Nyahururu district hospital by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers. He is currently recovering from the injuries he sustained during the attack.
Area where Paul was attacked by the elephant

Elephants from Ol ari Nyiro (The place of springs) Nature Conservancy have been a common occurrence in Wangwaci location. Every night elephants normally come out from the ranch and invade farmer’s crops. At times elephants appear as early as 6:00 pm. Most of the farmers were set to harvest their maize before the end of October but that will not happen as the elephants have  not only ‘‘harvested’’ maize for them but they have cleared all the maize cobs from the farms as well.  

Wangwaci farmers have been forced to erect makeshift stalls at their farms, where they spend the nights to protect their crops. During the night they light fire to scare away the elephants. Initially this used to work but of late the elephants do not easily get frightened by the fire at the farms.
Wangwaci residents normally retire to their homesteads by 6:00 pm as elephants normally start roaming the area around this time. In the morning they start the day’s activity at 6:00 am when the elephants are returning to Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy.
Most farmers in Wangwaci say that they will not be harvesting this season as all their farm produce have been eaten by elephants. There is a huge dam in the location and the area is good for horticulture but most farmers say that they cannot risk venturing into horticulture as the elephants will destroy their crops.
Farmers living along the 40 kilometres stretch of Ol ari Nyiro to Mugie ranch have abandoned their farms. The farmers who used to live along the stretch cited numerous challenges that they faced in their farms. During the day baboons used to invade their farms while as nightfall approaches elephants, lions, hyenas and buffalos would leave the nature conservancy and roam in the area.
Two months ago a consultative  meeting was held which brought together various stakeholders who included Laikipia Governor, Laikipia West member of Parliament , Laikipia County Women Representative, Members of County assemblies from  Githiga and Ol-Moran, Kenya Wildlife Service( KWS) representatives, Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy owner, Community Development Trust Fund and Laikipia Wildlife Forum.
The meeting was held to resolve the elephant menace. During the meeting Laikipia Governor promised that the County government would allocate eighty (80) million Kenya shillings to build a live fence covering Githiga ward, Ol-Moran ward and Sosian ward. The stakeholders also passed a resolution to cooperate and work together to solve the various issues that were raised.
Previously there was a fence by Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy and another fence by the community. The elephants destroyed the two fences. Currently the fence around Mwenje has been rehabilitated while the one in Ol-Moran has not. Elephants normally leave Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy through Ol-Moran ward as fence has not been erected there.
Farmer accessing what is left of his crops
Families in Wangwaci rarely spend the night together. At night men normally leave for their farms to protect their crops. ‘‘If you don’t spend the night in the farm all your products will be destroyed.’’ said Ibrahim Mutahi. They have devised an indigenous way of scaring the elephants.They burn dry elephant droppings mixed with pepper in a container. The burning scent normally scares the elephants away. This trick does not work for all Wangwaci residents as the area is big and the elephants will still find farms to invade.
One of the farmers called Douglas Kariuki had his five acre farm destroyed by the elephants. Douglas had planted maize in the farm but one day the elephants invaded his farm. He came out from his stall and tried to scare them away but he could not manage. Other residents joined him but they could not manage to scare away the elephants. Douglas watched helplessly as the elephants ate maize cobs from the five acre farm within minutes.
“I had invested so much in my farm. I was expecting to harvest mid October. The money that I was to get from my farm was supposed to take care of my family.” said Douglas.
“Are elephants more important than human beings. How will I be able to feed my family and pay school fees for my children. I still do not know how I am now going to take care of my family.” added Douglas.
One of the paths used by the elephants
Most Wangwaci residents had the same sentiments as Douglas. Their hard work in their farms is normally destroyed within minutes by the elephants. David Njogu had prepared a seedbed of tomatoes, cabbages and kales. He was planning to plant them on Friday but the elephants ensured that it would not happen. His seedbeds were completely destroyed. He now has to start preparing another seedbed.
“Life here is tough. It seems like elephants are more important than us. If an elephant would have been killed, the government would have arrived here with choppers to arrest us, but when our farm produce are destroyed no one even cares about it.” said David.
Formerly an operating cattle ranch, Ol ari Nyiro was transformed by Kuki Gallmann into a nature conservancy. The Conservancy is over 100,000 acres private wildlife sanctuary and nature Conservancy situated on the extreme Western edge of the Laikipia Plateau. The ranch also borders Samburu and Baringo Counties.
Wangwaci residents said that erecting a live fence will help to curb the problem with elephant and other animals from the ranch.
“Elephant corridor in Laikipia should be made to solve the problem of elephants. The elephants normally pass through Nyandarua forest then proceed to Rumuruti, Marmanet forest and finally Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature conservancy.” said Ibrahim Kitawi who is among the farmers affected in the location.
“The fence should be rehabilitated to be up to standard, baboon proof wire mesh should be put as well as employing of scouts to man the fence.” added Ibrahim.

Wangwaci residents do not know what the future holds for them,but one thing that they are sure about is that every night elephants have to invade their farms.

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