By Charles Mukiibi
People living in Gony Cogo village, Koch Goma subcounty in Nwoya district, near Murchison Falls National Park, are hopeful of realising a good crop harvest this season.
This follows a training of about 250 community wildlife scouts (CWS) in handling animals from the park that stray into farmers’ gardens and destroy crops.
The scouts team leader, G e o r g e Okeny, hailed the training, saying as a result, most crops have been protected and are ready for harvesting.
“When we returned home in 2008 from the internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps, life was not easy. Animals like elephants crossed from the park and destroyed gardens of crops, but with the involvement of the wildlife scouts, we are now happy and can smile,” Okeny said.
He asked USAID and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to avail the scouts with identity cards and give them motorcycles to ease their deployment to areas invaded by stray elephants which cannot easily be accessed by vehicles.
The Murchison Falls Park area conservation manager, Tom Obong Okello, told the scouts on Monday, that the CWS programme was started by UWA as it embarked on implementing humanwildlife conflict mitigations.
He was speaking during the hand-over of equipment for detecting and chasing away animals to the CWS at Giny Cogo game post.
Okello said the scouts were mobilised and trained in chasing away elephants from the gardens through simple and cheap methods.
The methods include increased vigilance , beating, drums, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas , application of red pepper and setting fire.
Okello said crop raiding by elephants is currently the major cause of human-wildlife conflict due to increasing human population. Settlements close to the park after the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency and the growing demand for access to land have also caused conflict.
“Last year, UWA approached the African Wildlife Foundation and USAID/Uganda Tourism for Biodiversity programme and requested for support in training of CWS and provision of equipment to support their activities. Today, we are happy that the scouts are receiving different types of equipment,” Okello said.
He said the equipment included protective gear such as gumboots, raincoats, torches and water bottles.