Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Elephants or people, who is important?

Elias Banda
“Who is important, elephants or people?”  this question is widely asked by people of  Mangamba village community in Traditional Authority Liwonde in Machinga District. The question has often been asked during interface meetings between the village community  and Machinga District officials in the wake of elephant attacks in the area.
a male elephant at Liwonde National Park

Elephants are reportedly on the loose breaking from the eastern edge of Liwonde National Park porous fence, destroyed crops and leaving people without food. The elephant invasion which locals described as frequently, has forced villagers to shift from their homes and camp around their corn fields to protect the little crops left. Villagers bit drums and blow whistles to scare away the elephants.
people have shifted into temporary shelters to guard their fields

"It appears the government places more value on animals that us" remarked one woman as others clapped hands in support.Many fields have been destroyed and the food deficit months are expected to increase. Villagers also said the National Park would not compensate destroyed crops.
In May 2012,   a 56 year old man died while trying to chase elephants that invaded his field, provoking community anger against the National Park officials.  In March this year, two people died from elephant attacks in separate incidents. 
Chiefs in the area claim that the problem of elephants has gone beyond control because the Wild Life
A destroyed maize field by elephants
Department erected a poor quality wire that could be easily pulled down by the animals. The claim has been denied by National Park officials who hinted that the wire had been destroyed by the poachers.
In 2012, ADRA Malawi facilitated community dialogue between the locals and the Natural Resource Management Committee to find a lasting solution on the matter.  An interface meeting with Park officials later resolved that government would put up a new fence in the affected areas but 12 months have elapsed since the promise was pronounced.
Speaking in an interview, Timothy Maseko, Liwonde Park Manager said the Park has sourced all the equipment for the fencing project and that the company to lead in the fence construction has been identified.  He said this would mean that construction of the fence would start any time.
Mr Maseko said that the community population boom around the park has forced people to expand their
fields close to the edge of Park fence forcing elephants to scamper for crops in the nearby fields.
Liwonde National Park has over 900 elephants and the porous fence wire that has been destroyed stretch up to 25 km making it easy for elephants to enter and exit the Park any time.

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