A herd of stray elephants have destroyed fences and crops at the Shashe irrigation scheme close to the borders of Botswana and South Africa in Zimbabwe.
There is now concern that the 50-hectare site will now struggle to produce its winter wheat crop if it continues to be invaded by the animals. Water for the irrigation scheme is supplied by the Shashe river which rises in Botswana, and thus it is believed that this is where the elephants came from. No people were harmed during the recent invasion but authorities have been notified in an attempt to prevent this happening again.
The Shashe irrigation scheme was founded in 1975 and covers 120 hectares with a capacity for 800 families, although has constantly struggled to reach full productivity. Last year a deal was made for the scheme to receive funding from the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources, a local non-government organisation which wished to repair damaged caused by cyclones and to train farmers as well as link them with markets at which they could sell their produce. Despite this, the scheme is still struggling at under half-capacity and is seeking help to electrify their 11km fence in an effort to keep wildlife out.
Vice chairperson of Shashe irrigation scheme, Mr Isaac Tlou, noted that elephants are "a perennial problem" and destroy crops and irrigation "every farming season". He also warned that if the problem was not dealt with "all the wheat belonging to 60 plot holders here will go to waste". As well as the obvious issue of wasting crops in a country as poverty-stricken as Zimbabwe, this particular scheme has further incentive not to fail. Mr Albert Mbedzi, chief executive officer of Beitbridge Rural District Council stated that "The Shashe project will be used as a barometer for future funding of other schemes in the district". If funding cannot be found to prevent wildlife entering the site and if they continue to destroy crops then it will be less likely that many will wish to fund other schemes.
Mr Tlou has said that he has also notified Mrs Metrine Mdau, the local Member of Parliament, in an effort to receive help from the relevant authorities.