For years, farmers from Lorien in Rumuruti District, Laikipia County have braved cold nights to ensure their crops are not destroyed by elephants that roam freely in the area.
Farmers also used all sorts of crude methods to drive away the wild animals, including lighting fires to frighten them if they trespassed on the farms unnoticed, all to ensure they reap what they grow but sometimes would the colossal animals hundreds of them are destroying farms so residents have to count casualties.
That is a thing of the past, however, after a 12-kilometer solar-powered electric fence was put into operation at a cost of 9 million shillings, covering the four villages of Kapkures, Tuigen, Narock and Ol Arinyiro to protect residents from human-wildlife conflict protect the sprawling Rumuruti district.
“The project was created because of the challenges posed by elephant encroachment on farmland. Elephants have destroyed crops and even threatened lives and sometimes killed people,” Joel Murei, chair of the Lorien Agroforestry Project for Sustainability, told KNA.
He revealed that wildlife intrusion has fallen by over 80 percent since the fence in the area was erected by the Kenya Smart Climate Agriculture Project (KSCAP), the project promoters.
“Since the project was implemented, interventions have decreased. For example, since 2020 we’ve only had five assaults. It’s a win compared to previous years when human-wildlife conflict was rampant,” added Murei.
He further noted that despite the ongoing drought in the area, residents were safe from attacks by wild animals, adding that elephants would not leave anything to chance as they would destroy infrastructure such as fences.
He further said that the fence is connected to Rumuruti-Marmanet and Inapmoi fences for complete security.
Kiptoo Rugut, a resident of Narock Village, commended KSCAP for helping the project, which they could not have afforded on their own. “We can sleep now, we thank you (KSCAP) for sponsoring this project. Human-wildlife conflict used to be a nightmare. Elephants can’t invade our farms now,” Rugut said.
Muriuki Kiboi, Laikipia County KSCAP project coordinator, said in their quest to build resident resilience in agricultural value chains, they realized that human-wildlife conflict was rife in the area, so they funded the solar-powered fence so that the Farmers can benefit from their agricultural products.
“There was a challenge in implementing the farming projects in Lorien due to human-wildlife conflict and the farmers had identified this as a major challenge in their integrated community action plan. Therefore, we realized that without protecting the area, especially from elephants, the project would not be successful,” revealed Kiboi.
He said that the agroforestry and solar electric fence cost Sh18 million and that they decided to use solar electric fences because all their projects are focused on protecting the environment.
The coordinator said through Lorien Agroforestry for Sustainable Land Development, which focuses on growing agroforest trees, farmers have benefited from 17,200 mango seedlings planted on about 300 acres of land. Kiboi further noted that residents were given 110 beehives to increase protection from elephant intrusion. He said that once the fence is operational, residents will be expected to manage it.
The Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project is a joint government project supported by the World Bank that aims to improve climate-friendly farming practices among smallholder, agro-pastoral and pastoral communities in arid and semi-arid areas. The project started in 2018.
By Muturi Mwangi