Zimbabwe’s solar irrigated farms face threats from elephants


When one of Zimbabwe’s first solar mini-grid systems was installed in this drought-prone village near the Botswana border in 2016, residents thought their problems were solved.

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Cheap, clean power ran irrigation pumps that kept the community’s wheat, maize and vegetable fields a sea of green even as climate change-fueled droughts parched the surrounding landscape.

But the verdant fields have attracted a new problem to Mashaba: herds of hungry elephants.

As drought makes grass and other fodder harder to find, elephants have begun invading the village’s tempting irrigated fields, destroying crops and irrigation canals and exasperating farmers.

“We have to stand guard in our fields all night from 6:30 pm till 3:30 in the morning. We beat pots, tins, pans, drums or anything that makes noise to chase away elephants,” Daniel Nyathi, a farmer in Mashaba, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As well, “every night we make bonfires on the edge of our fields, shine torches and rev a tractor all night, hoping that might scare the elephants,” said Nyathi who heads the 42-hectare (104-acre) Rustlers Gorge irrigation project, which serves 2,800 local households.

According to Mashaba residents, up to 60 elephants now appear to see the village’s irrigated fields as one of their main sources of food.

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