MASUNGA: Residents of the North East District live in fear of elephants that continue to terrorise villagers.
This concern was raised by council chairperson of the North East District Council (NEDC) Florah Mpetsane, when delivering a speech during the ongoing full council meeting on Monday.
Mpetsane said the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in the district received 84 wildlife related complaints during the last quarter of 2014/15. Among these, she noted, were reports that elephants were the most problematic animals, accounting for 89percent of the incidents.
The council chairperson further said the hardest hit areas included Patayamatebele, Matopi and Ditladi and some reports were received from other villages in Tati West. She said the properties destroyed included field crop fences, while carnivorous predators killed livestock.
“Crops mostly affected were maize and sorghum, with almost 25 hectares and 32 hectares damaged respectfully amongst two constituencies in the district,” she said. She added that the horticultural products mostly affected are tomatoes and butternuts.
Mpetsane promised the council that government would spend more than P488,000 as compensation to the deserving farmers. She applauded the department for assisting farmers by conducting night patrols to scare elephants. She added that plans are in place to conduct public awareness campaigns to increase understanding on human-wildlife conflict.
The chairperson said that the department is currently faced with shortage of officers to conduct proactive patrols and to attend to reports on time. She said this is a concern more especially that this year their district received rainfall later than the previous seasons.
“The rainfall was even low and as a result some farmers failed to catch up with moisture and this delayed the ploughing season,” she said. She added that a total of 714.1 hectares have been measured for only 77 farmers, a worrisome number as compared to the previous years. Meanwhile, Mpetsane also disclosed that the implementation of LIMID programme in the district is progressing but at a slow pace. She said the programme is faced with challenges of shortage of small stock such that the demand exceeds the supply and this had caused delay in assisting beneficiaries. “We however assure you all that efforts are being made to source small stock from outside the district,” she said.
She also noted that there was an outbreak of Newcastle disease in the district that has greatly affected the programme as hundreds of chickens died and some beneficiaries were left with nothing.
Mpetsane stated that another setback for the programme was shortage of resources such as transport especially trucks, but efforts were being made to liaise with other ministries to improve the situation. She pleaded with councillors to devise better strategies to address these problems, emphasising that if well managed, the LIMID programme could play a significant role in uplifting local residents’ lives.