Zim farms face threats from hungry elephants

Zimbabwe’s government has introduced a ban that stops its farmers from trading with any other government.

MASHABA, Zimbabwe - When one of Zimbabwe's first solar mini-grid systems was installed in Mashaba, residents thought their problems were solved.

But the verdant fields have attracted a new problem to Mashaba: herds of hungry elephants.

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As drought makes grass and other fodder harder to find, elephants have begun invading the village's tempting irrigated fields, destroying crops and irrigation canals and exasperating farmers.

According to Mashaba residents, up to 60 elephants now appear to see the village's irrigated fields as one of their main sources of food.

To try to find a solution, residents are working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), which oversees the country's wildlife.

Kwanele Manungo, who helps manage work by the authority in southern Zimbabwe, said a team of game rangers were dispatched to Mashaba in July to address the elephant problem.

READ: Heatwave threatens to slash harvests in drought-hit Zimbabwe

The rangers advised digging one-metre-deep trenches around the irrigated fields and using a traditional technique of putting piles of smouldering cow dung along their perimeter.

Manungo said the team, which was in the area for a month, "ended up leaving the place because elephants did not come back". Community members were advised to call again if they had further problems.

"In the worst scenario, we shoot down a leader of the menacing elephants or scare them off using firecrackers," she said.

But Practical Action officials said more "lasting solutions" to elephant invasions of irrigated farmland needed to be worked out.

Tinashe Farawo, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said the authority sometimes runs short of government funding for its wildlife management programmes and is forced to self-fund.