In the villages on the fringes of the Okavango Delta, a festering war between elephants and local flood recession farmers has been ongoing for years with a devastating impact on the farmers.
Some farmers have abandoned their farms in an effort to run away from the elephants but increasingly there is nowhere to run. The village of Tubu is located 10 kilometres east of Gumare village, on the fringes of the Okavango Delta. Farmers in this area describe their village as their breadbasket whose produce they feed other residents and sell the surplus to other villages. One of the farmers even boosted that theirs is a success story in a country like Botswana which has for decades failed to produce enough to feed itself.
Tube residents practice flood recession commonly known as Molapo Farming. This system is practiced along the edges of the river channels or seasonally flooded depressions.A Molapo farmer relies on residual moisture and natural fertilization of the floodplains. According to online information from the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, there are two different systems of crop farming in the Okavango region: dryland farming and flood recession or Molapo farming.
A land-use assessment utilising satellite images which was carried out by the University of Botswana found that out of 48,900 hectares cleared for cultivation in Ngamiland, 75% consists of dryland fields and 25% of fields temporarily inundated floodplains or Molapo farms. However, coupled with poor climatic conditions and climate change; drought conditions and elephant increase, clashes between elephants and farmers have become more pronounced in the Tubu area. As a result, some farmers have been forced to abandon their farms but the elephants still find them. Journalist Boniface Keakabetse interviewed three farmers in the area to hear their story.
Kebapile Saudu- I wish I was just dead than to experience this misery
59 year old Kebapile Saudu is one of the farmers affected by elephants. He revealed in an interview that he used to farm at Chaa fields. However, Saudu was forced to abandon Chaa by elephants and had to relocate closer to Tubu village in 2017. Saudu’s forced relocation came after a rogue elephant attacked and injured his uncle at Chaa farm. “After this incident my wife said to me let us run away as these animals are going to kill us.”
Saudu continued: “I have been farming here in Tubu for three years now. The elephants forced me to abandon my farm which I was allocated by Tawana Land Board in Chaa. I cannot return there as I fear elephants. But the elephants have now followed me. They are here in Tubu in large numbers. We have nowhere to run.” Saudu continued:” I wish God would just take my life than to suffer like this. How do I live? How do I fend for my family when elephants eat everything I plow? This has been ongoing for more than three years now. We are suffering.”
Saudu continued: “there is no how you can stop an elephant when it comes in to your farm. We always try to chase them by setting up fires at night in an attempt to scare them but these giants are unstoppable. As soon as they come in the middle of the night you will hear dogs barking then we know disaster has come. We would wake up; stoke up the fire in a desperate attempt to chase them away. But all these efforts prove a futility at the end of the day. The elephants will just fall the fence and eat all the crops.
Kelemogile Xao- we will be forced to abandon our fields and become poachers
Another farmer interviewed was Kelemogile Xao whose farm is also located in Tubu. At the time of the interview, Xao was busy preparing for the coming plowing season. However, he explained that he is still uncertain he will get anything from his farm due to the marauding elephants.
Xao said: “I used to plow pumpkins, maize which I loaded in big trucks to sell as far as Gumare and even Maun. These elephants start coming into our fields as soon as the maize starts growing. This farm was my life but elephants destroyed my livelihood. At the moment I do not know how I am going to live or feed with my family.”
“For years I have been planting crops to feed the elephants not my family. I have been turned in to a pauper who would soon enrol for government social services programme because the elephants are stopping me to feed myself. The government must intervene and help us otherwise we would be forced resort to poaching.”
Letsweletse Sarefo: No Money for my Children’s Education
The 45-year-old woman farmer in Tubu also farms a Molapo farm. She explained that for the last two years elephants have destroyed her field by falling fence and eating the crops. “Once elephants fall the fence, cattle comes in through the fallen fence to finish all the crops.
Sarefo stated: “my entire produce values around P 3000, 00 per year. But for three years all my produce was eaten by elephants. I use the money I get from selling the produce to feed my family and spend on my children's education. But the last years have been bad for me due to the elephant’s damage. Sarefo called on the government to help farmers erect stronger farm fences that can withstand the elephants.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.