Farmers in the northern district of Nwoya are losing their entire annual crop to marauding wild animals from national parks, former Leader of Opposition Morris Ogenga Latigo, who is a farmer himself, has said.
Latigo, who has suffered heavy losses, urges the government to help farmers fight off elephants, buffaloes and other wild animals from the park that are doing all the damage. During a recent field tour, Ogenga showed this writer the extent of the damage.
“The lower side of the farm, which is seven acres out of 40, has been eaten up by buffaloes, all the maize that you see has no leaves because they have been eaten. For a small farmer sometimes, if this was one acre of maize, the whole of his plantation would have been destroyed….” he said.
Ogenga says farmers are not compensated for such loss.
“I suffer damage like this, I cannot kill the animals, they will not compensate me because there is no law that calls for compensation. Last year we grew 40 acres of super rice and you won’t believe it, the buffaloes ate the whole rice and with super rice, it is very expensive,” he said.
Ogenga, a large-scale farmer with up to 1,000 acres, says there should be a way to help farmers who lose crops to animals and drought.
“Basically the biggest problem in the season is drought, the elephants and buffaloes are eating up crops but these crops have also been greatly affected by the changes in weather. The effect of the drought and animals is just too much for us. Government should come up with more systematic support for farmers,” he said.
Ogenga suggested loans to help farmers make up for the losses.
“Last year we lost more than 60 million of potential yields, if you did 60 acres, the elephants may damage at least 6%. Last year I had a bank loan and I hinged my repayment on getting money from the rice and when the rice was destroyed, I did not have the money to pay the bank, I had to run around, so I thought this year I would pay up everything but again the rain has not come and animals have destroyed the crops,” Ogenga lamented.
Tony Akena, a Nwoya district youth leader, has abandoned farming altogether after his maize was destroyed by wild animals.
“Last year I had 10 acres of rice in Latoro parish and when elephants destroyed the whole crop, this brought me back to zero… I fear planting again because the animals are still there,” he said.
Lilian Nsubuga, the Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson, said people are planting particular crops such as bananas which attract elephants and other animals.
“We cannot compensate them, but we have compensated a few people, for instance a man whose bicycle was destroyed by elephants while he was crossing with bananas in the park,” she said.