By Habakkuk Trust
Women in Bulilima Ward 11 have raised calls of despondency in the wake of heightened elephant invasions which are threatening to push them deeper into vulnerability. The elephant invasions which have been ongoing for the past three weeks have resulted in crop and field infrastructure losses.
Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Team members in Madlambudzi have reported that elephants are decimating maize crops and watermelon fields at the same time destroying farmland infrastructure.
In a Ward where most households are headed by females as a result of the migration of their spouses, women have found themselves at the epicenter of a crisis. Women have found themselves at the forefront of elephant invasions as they engage in risky endeavors in an attempt to ward off elephants.
Women who spoke at the sidelines of a documentary screening event in Madlambudzi narrated their ordeal which included suicidal close range encounters with elephants.
“I came close to an arm’s length distance with an elephant in an effort to protect my crop,” said Phephelaphi Ncube who lost an entire harvest to the Jumbos. “It was however futile as jumbo became agitated and we had to watch helplessly as they feasted on our hard-earned produce.”
Although an Agritex officer carried out an assessment of the loss after the first invasion, Ncube is fast losing hope for compensation many fields have since been decimated without any assessment being done afterward.
The human-wildlife conflict situation in Bulilima Wards 10 and 11 has become dire and women are the most affected as they bear the brunt of producing food for the family.
Rural women grow crops for direct consumption and sell. Losing crops to wildlife results in food-insecure households and reduced economic status. Other existing vulnerabilities make some women more susceptible to wildlife impacts, and less able to recover from losses or to access compensation.
In response to the crisis, the local authority has since dispatched hunter and game scouts to alleviate the plight of villagers. This effort has resulted in the shooting down of three elephants in an attempt to sward them off, away from human settlements.
Habakkuk Trust is working together with Bulilima villagers in amplifying calls for the erection of an electric fence and resuscitation of the Mabhongwane dam as a lasting solution to a perennial crisis.