Farmers reap benefits of electric fence curbing invasion by elephants

Residents say the fence has confined the elephants. PHOTO | FILE
Residents say the fence has confined the elephants. PHOTO | FILE 

The use of high voltage electric fences is helping to protect farms in Meru against invasion by elephants despite the high risk posed to residents and the animals.

The bare wire fence is usually supported on makeshift insulators and fixed on posts, but lacks a component that converts current into pulses and so easily shock when touched.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is fencing a 54 kilometre perimeter nine-strand tight-lock wire-mesh fence around Imenti Forest at Sh135 million. Although risky, residents say the fencing is showing signs of solving human-wildlife conflict in a region classified by the wildlife custodian as a migration corridor.

Over the years, farmers at Kithoka Village have incurred losses when the animals uprooted and destroyed almost two-thirds of crops every year, exposing them to a cycle of poverty.

Lewis Kithinji, a farmer, said the jumbos destroyed “everything, including food crops like maize, cassava, bananas, beans.” Residents said that the frequent farm invasions had gone down since the fence, now covering 31 kilometres of the Imenti Forest, was erected.

Warden in charge of Meru Station Francis Mbaka said communities neighbouring the forest were the right people to police and maintain the fence.

“The fence will encircle the indigenous forest. The stakeholders are seeking to integrate communities living next to the fence to own and maintain it. Since May 2016, we have had zero cases of crop raiding or human injuries.

Kithoka, which has been a conflict hotspot, has plenty of food and land value has also gone up,” Mr Mbaka said. Since the fence was erected, business at the nearby Mugene and Kiruai markets has improved due to food surplus.

“We have enough to eat and we are now selling some of it, especially cabbages, carrots, arrow roots and bananas,” said Dickson Mwenda.

Mr Mbaka admitted that compensation was tedious because of the lengthy verification process, starting from the district and ending up at the KWS head office in Nairobi.