The Star (Nairobi)

19 March 2012

Kenya: 30,000 Kinango Farmers Protest Jumbo Invasion

OVER 30,000 farmers in Kinango district have petitioned Wildlife minister Dr Noah Wekesa to rein in a rancher in the area for breaking the Tsavo East National Park fence letting elephants into their farms.

The farmers also blamed the rancher on the current human-wildlife conflict facing the residents of the semi-arid region saying he had been overstocking the Kenya Meat Commission ranch making him desperate to look for pasture from the park.

Speaking after inspecting the fence in Mackinnon road, Kinango Farmers Association chairman Juma Mwachiramba said elephants and buffaloes have invaded their farms despite the government erecting a 45km fence at a cost of Sh35 million. "After several appeals to the state to address the human-wildlife conflict menace, the state fenced the area in 2009 but this rancher has broken it to pave way for his herd of cattle into the park for pasture without considering our plight," said Mwachiramba.

Mwachiramba who was flanked by area councillor Ahmed Musa and chief Boniface Mwatela said there was need for Kenya Wildlife Service to fix the broken areas to avert a looming hunger crisis following the influx of the beasts. Mwatela who is also Samburu division acting DO said there is need for KWS to conduct a survey of the damaged areas to solve the problem.

The leaders claimed that the rancher who had entered into a deal with KMC had brought in over 1,000 head of cattle instead of the 200 cattle that the ranch can accommodate compelling him to seek alternative grazing ground. "If the rancher had stuck to what is supposed to be the number of cattle required on this ranch then this problem would not be there as there is enough pasture for that number of cattle hence no need of interfering with the park fence," said Mwachiramba.

The civic leader said crops have been destroyed leaving the locals vulnerable to hunger. They now have to rely on relief food from the government and other agencies following the havoc caused by the beasts. Earlier on KWS warden in charge Wilson Korir had said the problem had been fixed even as the leaders decided who made a familiarization tour of the situation of the ground pleaded for KWS intervention saying it was now planting season. "We are appealing to the KWS to fix this problem because it threatens farming as well lives of the residents," said Musa.

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