Top: Elephants have roamed towns and villages in Grand Cape Mount County in the last five years. The DayLight/Harry Browne

By Emmanuel Sherman

GUYAN, Gbarpolu County – Last year, Nancy Mulbah, a businesswoman in Duala, decided to quit her market table to become a full-time farmer.

It proved to be the best decision the 40-plus-year-old mother made. Her farm in Guyan, a town in the Bondi Mandingo Chiefdom of Gbarpolu’s Bopolu District delivered a good harvest. She settled her Brewerville house rent and paid her children’s school fees.

But this year would be a nightmare. Last month, a herd of elephants raided her farmland, eating and crushing her crops.

“Almost everything, potato, eggplants and bitter balls,” Mulbah said pointing to the remnants of the farm and brandishing a plantain bunch.

Mulbah is one of several farmers in that part of Bopolu District whose crops have been destroyed as elephants comb new towns and villages for food in the western countryside.

Until now, the tuskers raided farmlands in several towns and villages in the Gbarma District and the neighboring Grand Cape Mount County, according to media and other reports. Varguay, a town in Cape Mount’s Gola Konneh District, has been the epicenter of what experts called the human-elephant conflict.

One Study shows that elephant have their biggest population in the northwestern parts of the country. However, human activities such as farming, mining and logging have encroached on their habitat, leaving elephants in a desperate search for food.

Nancy Mulbah brandishes a bunch of plantains she scavenged after elephants raided her farm. The DayLight/Esau Farr

On average, an elephant eats 149-169 kilograms of vegetation, taking between 16 and 18 hours a day. Grass, fruits, tree backs and roots, and bushes feature permanently on its menu. It ravages an entire farmland in a matter of hours.

Perhaps that explains the destruction of Mulbah and other farmers’ farms.

“We are experiencing [a] setback from the elephants,” said James Sirleaf, who said he invested thousands of dollars on his farm adjacent to Mulbah’s.  “My children will not go to school and I will not go back to school.”

Counting the losses, the farmers said the situation discouraged them from farming. Sirleaf said he expected to have harvested 100 plus heads of plantain but expected to get nothing. Togba Sando, another farmer, said he lost 50 heads of plantain in the May night raid.

“I will drop the farming activities,” said Sirleaf.

The reactions of the Guyan farmers mirror their Gbarma District and Grand Cape Mount counterparts’.

There, farmers have quit their farms and fled their homes due to frequent elephant raids in the last decade or so. Some 20 people left Vaguay for Gohn, another Cape Mount town, according to local authorities.

Villagers in Zuo, a large town in Gbarma, are some of the most recent sides in the conflict, with an estimated 1,900 farmers.

“We ourselves can’t make so we are planning to leave the area to go back to Zuo,” said Amos Clarke who came to a village locals call Africa to do his farming.

The farmers said they have tried to cope with the raids but are overwhelmed. They burn pepper, deploy goats—whose bleating villagers believe repels elephants—and beat drums.

Togba Sando shows DayLight a mound of elephant dung after the tusked mammals raided his farmland in Guyan, Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/Esau Farr

The farmers in Guyan are applying the same methods and, likewise, are getting no results.

Mulbah sleeps on her farm, makes farm fires and clangs pots. Sando even fires a hunting rifle in the air.  

Aware killing elephants is unlawful, Mulbah cries for help.

“Let the government come to our aid to protect our farm and save our families,” Mulbah added.

[Additional reporting by Matenneh Keita Harry Browne and Esau Farr]

The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ). The Kyeema Foundation and Palladium provided funding for the story.

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