Elephants: a large problem

Namibia is a land of contradictions. Laurencius Antabo’s farm is by a river side, but it is as dry as the desert around it. But in the sandy soil, Laurencius grows apples and oranges, and even has a banana tree.

He’s an enterprising man, but he has a large problem: elephants. In the dry /Goanta≠gâb riverbed, herds of them forage for food and drink. Water is provided courtesy of a diesel pump protected by an elephant proof wall, and is pumped down to a dam where the thirsty giants can drink. But afterwards they break down the wooden fence around the farmer’s home and rip up his fruit trees.

The answer may be a stone wall around the house and garden, but Laurencius doesn’t have enough money for that. He also can’t afford to keep pumping water for the elephants from his own pocket. He lives in Sorris Sorris Conservancy, which is reconsidering its human wildlife conflict strategy and its benefit distribution plan, to target assistance to farmers better in the future. Assuming, that is, the conservancy can earn money from a tourist lodge run as a joint venture with a private sector investor.

At the moment, the conservancy pays N$1,500 to a farmer who loses a high quality stud goat to predators. Laurencius bought a ram costing N$13,000, which was taken by cheetahs. That’s a big loss.

The conservancy is close to Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site and the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest peak, where fabulous rock art is preserved in high caves. Four wheel drives rented by visitors roar past the farm, but tourism doesn’t benefit Laurencius much. It’s a contradiction that the farmer struggles with. He likes the elephants as much as the tourists do, but not in his garden.