Kitgum residents petition President Museveni over escalating human-wildlife conflict

In the years 2019 and 2020, the Kidepo Valley National Conservation Area recorded 356 instances of confrontation between humans and wildlife

Kitgum: The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is being criticized by about 6,000 residents of Namokora sub-county in Kitgum district, whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by wild animals escaping from Kidepo Valley National Game Park.

They accuse UWA of failing to keep the animals contained within the gazetted game park.

The people of Namokora wrote an open letter to President Yoweri Museveni Kaguta on May 23, 2024. Signed by their LCIII chairperson, Geoffrey Opeyt.The petition begged the president to step in and provide strict directives to the park’s authorities.

Less than a month had passed since the president gave UWA the order to fence Kidepo Game Park to prevent wild animals from destroying crops and properties owned by people.

The complaints stemmed from the incursions of roving animals, including buffaloes, lions, and elephants, which are allegedly ruining people’s properties, harvested produce, and garden crops while also harming and killing humans and cattle.

In Namokora, more than 6,000 farmers have welcomed the rainy season by planting crops like cassava and maize. However, these farmers are fighting to prevent stray elephants from eating their crops, and they are also worried about lions, who are becoming more and more common in the area, attacking their livestock.

According to a report by local leaders, 10 goats vanished between January and May of 2024; it is unknown where they are today. It is thought that they were devoured by predators.

Opyet Geffrey, the chairperson of Namokora sub-county LCIII, claims that despite attempts to communicate with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) through security and advocacy meetings, phone support, and the deployment of game rangers on the ground who are assisted by community wildlife scouts, the state of affairs is appalling and unresolved.

He claims that hundreds of acres of cassava, banana, and mango plantations in the nearby communities of Pugoda East, Pugoda West, and Deite Parish have been severely damaged by elephants since the year began, depriving many families of food and cash.

Residents of Namokora’s Luguruc village were compelled to avoid the garden earlier this week after seeing a stray lion in the neighborhood, possibly out of fear that it would attack them.

The leaders have asked UWA to put in place practical safeguards against wildlife incursions by animal pathways made of asphalt and fencing. Additionally, they make a request to UWA to reimburse and assist the more than 6,000 impacted families who have already completed the evidence-based forms and have been approved for reimbursement.

They further request that UWA provide seeds and agricultural inputs, including tractors, ox-plows, and hand-walking tractors, to victims of human-wildlife conflict in each affected sub-county.

In an exclusive interview with our reporter, the public relations officer of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Hanji Bashir, stated that UWA has long urged the nearby population to produce crops like sunflower and chili and to engage in apiculture, or beekeeping, as this serves as a deterrent to elephants.

When the communities notice an elephant in their land, they are also encouraged to employ another frightening technique, such as blowing vuvuzelas and pounding drums.

Okot Samuel Canokema, a resident of Rosil Village in Namokora sub-county and one of the affected individuals, asserts that the elephants have grown accustomed to this local practice and would instead charge and drive away the people who are frightening them.

Pay scale

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) announced in April 2023 that it would pay compensation to 67 people who had been attacked by wild animals. Those who were to receive compensation included the nearby Kidepo Valley National Game Park, which experienced intermittent attacks in 2019 and 2020. Of the victims, 24 are from Kitgum District’s Namokora Sub-County, 42 are from Orom Sub-County, and one is from Namokora Town Council.

According to UWA, the victims’ belongings, including houses and crops, among other things, were destroyed, and some of their loved ones perished by wild animals that wandered, such as lions and elephants.

In the years 2019 and 2020, the Kidepo Valley National Conservation Area recorded 356 instances of confrontation between humans and wildlife. All of the districts that surround the conservation area, including Lamwo, Kotido, Kabong, Abim, Agago, and Kitgum, were spared by these cases.

Under Uganda Wildlife Act Section 83 (1), the Ugandan Parliament passed the Wildlife Compensation Scheme, mandating UWA to create and uphold a wildlife compensation program that will include: (a) two percent of the money the authorities receive from the services it provides; (b) money set aside by the legislature expressly for this purpose; and (c) money from any additional source that the board approves.

According to UWA, the steps involved in providing compensation to victims are reporting the incident, having UWA access the devastation, confirming the claims, and disbursing the compensation fund to the individuals who were impacted.

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Christopher Nyeko

Christopher Nyeko is multimedia solution based Journalist based in Northern Uganda with more focus on reporting about crosscutting issues ranging from Local, National and international. Contact/ WhatsApp 0774695010 Email Facebook: Bwona Chris P' Dona Twitter: Christopher Nyek Link-in: Christopher Nyeko.

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