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Locals build wall to keep elephants out of farms in Meru

Tuesday February 26 2019

Human-wildlife conflict

Mutunyi residents build a stone wall to ward off elephants that have destroyed crops worth millions of shillings. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

DAVID MUCHUI
By DAVID MUCHUI
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ELIJAH MWANGI
By ELIJAH MWANGI
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Residents of Mutunyi in Buuri, Meru County have resorted to constructing a stone wall on an elephant corridor, to ward off jumbos that have destroyed crops worth millions of shillings.

Mutunyi, which is located near the Lewa Conservancy on the Meru-Isiolo border is famous for horticultural farming with farmers raking into up to Sh100 million annually.

The area also sits on a stretch leading to the Mt Kenya Elephant Corridor, that includes an underpass, connecting traditional elephant migratory path between Mt Kenya Forest and northern Kenya. About 200 elephants are said to use the corridor every year.

Kisima Ward Representative Joy Karambu said the government's food security agenda was at risk as elephants were destroying crops worth Sh4 million every year.

As a result, residents have devised a way of keeping the elephants at bay by building a wall on a one kilometre stretch of the Meru-Isiolo boundary.

Elephant invasions has forced locals to
Elephant invasions has forced locals to relocate to Mutunyi market. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Pastor John Rikita, a resident said they are building five feet wide and four feet high wall from locally available stones to deter the destructive elephants.

"We decided to build the wall after so many years of suffering. For the last 10 years, many people have abandoned their farms due to destruction from elephants. From experience, we learnt that elephants cannot cross a wall which is five feet wide and higher than their legs," Pastor Rikita said.

Residents have devised a way of keeping the
Residents have devised a way of keeping the elephants at bay by building a wall on a one kilometre stretch of the Meru-Isiolo boundary. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He said the elephant invasions had forced locals to relocate to Mutunyi market, two kilometers from where the wall is being built.

A spot check by Nation established several abandoned farms, with idle water pans, that provided water for irrigation.

Mr Joshua M'Liburu, who survived an elephant attack in 2017 says the government owes him close to Sh3 million in compensation claims.

"I was attacked by an elephant in my farm and broke my arm and leg. Despite my age and injuries, I have decided to help in building the war to reduce the elephant attacks. I used to make Sh500,000 every three months from tomato and banana farming but all that was destroyed by elephants," Mr M'Liburu said.

Mr Fredrick Guantai said he lost tomatoes worth Sh70,000, last year, after elephants raided the area.

"We have been impoverished by the elephants despite having sufficient water for farming. The government should save us from starving in abundance," he said.

Ms Josephine Ruuri's tale of her encounter with elephants is not different as she had to abandon her French bean farm in 2014.

"I filed crop damage compensation claims worth Sh756,000 in 2014 but I have never been paid. After we relocated to the market, the elephants are now following us because there is no food to eat in the farms," Ms Ruuri said.

Mr James Njogu said his family lost tomatoes and onions worth Sh300,000 last season. He added that he is yet to be paid a compensation claim of Sh35,000 for onions destroyed by elephants in 2015.

The area is famous for horticultural farming
The area is famous for horticultural farming with farmers raking into up to Sh100 million annually. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

"We get up to 15 elephants invading the farms at night. During the day, we have to contend with monkeys. Horticulture is no longer viable at Mutunyi," Mr John Kinyua said.

The move by Mutunyi residents come days after farmers in Mituntu, Tigania West demonstrated over persistent elephant invasions.

But Meru Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Senior Warden Francis Mbaka said they had repaired the Lower Imenti electric fence and stationed a patrol team in the area to curb the menace.

Isiolo KWS Senior Warden Peter Mbote, who is in charge of Mutunyi, could not be reached for comment.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, last year, said the wildlife conflict compensation claims stood at Sh420 million.

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