Empowering Farmers: The Impact of Electric Fences on Human-Wildlife Conflict in Uganda.

Empowering Farmers: The Impact of Electric Fences on Human-Wildlife Conflict in Uganda.

BY INNOCENT KIIZA

In Uganda, communities neighboring national parks often face the challenge of human-wildlife conflict, where animals encroach on farmland, leading to crop destruction, property damage, and sometimes loss of life. However, the implementation of electric fences has shown promise in mitigating these conflicts, providing a safer environment for both humans and wildlife. This article explores the significant impact of electric fences on communities living around the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.

Empowering Farmers

Jennifer Musoki, a resident of Kyenzanza, shares her relief after the installation of electric fences, which have significantly reduced the threat of elephants raiding her farmland. Prior to the fences, she endured years of crop destruction and financial loss, even resorting to selling part of her land to repay loans. The introduction of electric fences brought newfound security and optimism to Musoki and other farmers in the region.

At least, we can now sleep, gone are the days when we would have to spend long nights drumming buckets and jerrycans and making fire camps just to scare away the elephants.”

The implementation of electric fences has drastically reduced crop raiding by wildlife, with a reported 87% decrease in southwest Kasese, Uganda. Farmers have diversified their crops, including bananas, groundnuts, maize, and beans, leading to improved livelihoods and economic activities. Additionally, the value of land has increased, indicating a positive impact on the local economy.

Construction and Operation of Electric Fences

Electric fences are constructed  by space for Giants using solar-powered energy, emitting pulses of up to 9,000 volts. The design is non-lethal but effectively deters wildlife, such as elephants, from encroaching on farmland. Despite challenges, such as elephants finding alternative routes, the overall effectiveness of electric fences in protecting crops and property is evident.

Justus Tusubira, a specialist from space for Giants, a company that constructed the electric fence, says the construction  and installation started in 2018 around Kyenzaza-Kagarama in Wildlife Reserve -Queen Elizabeth Protected Area(QEPA) because it was the hotspot with the highest rate of wildlife- human conflict cases.

He says they have so far constructed 60 kilometers and expect to complete the remaining parts of Queen Elizabeth National park in the coming second phase.

“Wires are strung Horizontally between 3fts posts, pulsing with up 9,000 volts of

electricity drawn from solar powered energy. Protruding from the Horizontal wire are 4ft

electrified outriggers that raise at the angle of 45 degrees towards the direction the big

 cats/ animals will approach from the park.”Tusubira said

While electric fences have significantly reduced human-wildlife conflict, there are concerns from cattle keepers who have limited access to pasture within the park. Political interference has also disrupted fence expansion efforts, highlighting the need for community cooperation and support for conservation initiatives. However, the benefits of electric fences, including improved food security, increased land value, and enhanced biodiversity conservation, outweigh these challenges.

Significance to Food Production and Conservation

Electric fences have had a profound impact on food production and biodiversity conservation. Farmers can now reintroduce abandoned crops, leading to increased yields and income. Additionally, attitudes toward wildlife conservation have shifted positively, with communities supporting efforts to protect elephant populations and generate revenue for community development.

As the success of electric fences continues to unfold, there is a growing demand for their expansion to other regions affected by human-wildlife conflict. Leaders and stakeholders advocate for further investment in conservation efforts, emphasizing the importance of protecting both farmers’ livelihoods and wildlife populations.

Kasese District production officer Julius Baluku says the electric fence has significance

on yields adding that the problem of animals invading farms  has reduced and farmers are now boosting over enhanced production.

“Elephants used to invade farmers gardens through various spots and destroying

Everything in the field, for example Augustine Musereru’s garden, elephants ate almost

three hectares of maize plantation but recently the story changed; Baluku said.  

The Regional field officer Cotton Development Organization Adrian Katwetegywe, says 

Electric fences have had a lot of impact as far as farmers production is concerned.

“By 2018 the production of cotton has stagnated at around 20,000-30,000bells, now

we have been having production above 30 thousand and our production is determined

by various factors include price, pests and disease , climate and extension services to

farmers  but Electric fence has given farmers choice to decide on what crops to grow

depending on the season” Katwetegywe said.

Future outlook

The implementation of electric fences in Uganda has significantly reduced human-wildlife conflict, providing a safer environment for communities living near national parks. Farmers like Jennifer Musoki have experienced tangible benefits, including increased crop yields and improved economic prospects. As efforts to expand electric fences continue, there is hope for a harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife, ensuring sustainable development for future generations.

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