As climate change sweeps over our corner of the planet playing havoc with rainfall and temperatures, the battle between humans and animals for survival is also heightening.
In the west, cattle ranchers are fighting for rapidly declining, drought ravaged pasture with the safari industry which argues that their animals bring revenues of a more sustainable and less fickle nature, compared to animal farming.
In the north, the little yield crop farmers were expecting from a difficult year is being imperilled by the encroachment of elephants, desperate for nourishment in a difficult year.
Our sister publication, The Monitor, ran a story yesterday about crocodiles in Sitatunga that are multiplying in numbers and attacking both humans and livestock. Recently two children were attacked and survived while in 2014, crocodiles killed 51 animals in 29 cases. The area councillor, Vepaune Moreti, was quoted as saying the crocodiles are apparently enjoying high birth rates and have tripled their numbers. We share our environment with these animals and have done so since time immemorial. In times of drought, however, conflicts escalate as both sides fight for nutrition and sustenance.
Standing between both sides is government policy, as enforced by the officials engaged and equipped for the very purpose.
Increasingly, more Batswana are complaining about the Problem Animal Control units around the country which appear ineffectual in protecting the meagre arable yields farmers are expecting this year. In the west, elephants trample wildlife fences and allow buffalo to cross over and spread Foot and Mouth Disease to farmers’ cattle.
While farmers do receive compensation for crop losses and infrastructure damage, the opportunity costs associated can never be replaced.
According to the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, the Problem Animal Control units are “very busy” across the country and thus, are stretched thin.
As such, Batswana have found themselves face to face with troublesome animals and some have taken the law into their own hands in dealing with the problem.
When caught, they are given heavy fines and this has led many to believe government, its policies and its officers lean to the side of animals in this eternal battle. While we could never advocate for citizens to take the law into their own hands, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect farmers from their wild neighbours around them.
With the drought relief measures announced last month catering for everything from farmers insurance to food relief for the most vulnerable in society, some of that P445 million approved could have been used to employ more Problem Animal Control unit officers.
“Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.”
– “Madeleine L’Engle”