Agriculture

Human wildlife conflict leaves villagers starving

CHENGETAI MURIMWA

Villagers in Lupane District are facing food shortages as they cannot harvest from their fields after the crop was destroyed by elephants as the human wildlife conflict escalates in Matabeleland North Province.

A villager in Sotani Ward, Sithabile Ndlovu said she did not harvest anything for the past three summer cropping seasons because of elephants.

“For past three seasons, I have harvested nothing as the elephants have been coming to my field and grazing to the ground all my crops and I am left with nothing,” she said.

Ward Councillor for Sotani Major Mpala told The Business Times that elephants, hyenas and lions are causing havoc in the area.

“These animals are a real problem as they either graze our fields or kill our livestock,” Mpala said, adding that the responsible authorities have not responded to their pleas.

One villager, Elliot Ndlovu who lost about six cattle to hyenas accused the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Kusile Rural District Council of failing to assist the affected villagers.

“It’s so sad that when we report our problem to Zimparks and our local rural district council no one seems to be interested in assisting us,” he Ndlovu.

But Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the authority responds within the “shortest possible time” to reports of wild animals encroaching into human settlements.

“It is unfortunate that our communities are being impoverished by these animals.

These problems are not only unique in Lupane but also in different parts of the country such as Mbire, Guruve and Save Conservancy,” Farawo said.

He said food reserves for wild animals have been reduced due to climate change – forcing them to seek food in human settlements.

He said some wild animals were grazing in fields belonging to villagers resulting in “alarming statistics on fatalities”.

“At least 56 people have lost their lives since January to human wildlife conflict and 40 have been injured so there is a need to depopulate our wildlife,” Farawo said.

Kusile Rural District Council CEO Christopher Chuma said the authority regularly conducts problem animal control in their area of jurisdiction.

According to the villagers, they are losing more than 300 hectares of crops to wild animals every year.

This has left many villagers in a critical food security and extreme poverty.

Most villagers in the area are now relying on food donations from non-governmental organisations operating in the area.

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