It is 9am on a Monday morning, and Jeckonia Njaga appears from shrubs neighbouring his home in Akingli village, Kisumu West Sub County.
He has been keeping vigil since 5.30am, to prevent baboons and monkeys from raiding his one-acre maize field.
This is the new norm for him and the hundreds of residents in this village following increased invasion by the wild animals which not only pose hunger threat but also security threat as the animals attack humans and domestic animals.
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“This dog is healing from a baboon attack which happened a week ago. Had we delayed to respond, it would be dead,” he said.
Last planting season, he lost over half of the produce to the animals, and he is hoping that this will not be repeated this time round.
“Our way of life has changed. We have to be armed every time, and we spend about 15 hours in the farm every day, or else we lose everything,” said the 50-year-old father of six.
When the Standard visited the area, a number of residents could be seen in groups, carrying pangas, clubs and other forms of weapons.
These, they say are not for attacking the animals, but for scaring them away, as they are too smart to fall into the villagers’ traps. They claim there are over 300 baboons and monkeys in the village, residing within the neighbouring shrubs.
According to 40-year-old Nicanor Odongo, the menace begun in 2014 when the residents begun to spot a few baboons.
“They were countable. Maybe two or three traversing the villages and picking food remains,” he said.
Two years later, the population of the animals had risen to over 100, and could be seen moving in groups and becoming fierce.
Today, the animals have taken over the three villages of Akingli A, B and C, with a combined household of over 1, 400.
Odongo claims that efforts by the residents to seek help from the Kenya Wildlife Services have not borne any fruits, as wardens who respond to contain the situation have always left without any solution.
“We are ready to be compensated for our land so that we move somewhere because, from the way this issue has been handled, we are not confident that there is some long term solution to it,” said Joab Ouma, another resident.
On Monday, the residents were in a baraza, where they discussed possibilities of drafting a proposal to have the village which sits on 1,500 acres of land handed over to KWS to turn into a game reserve to host the animals and have the villagers moved to a safer place.
“As things stand there is no solution. Our leaders are telling us that they can’t help much and that we can kill the animals, but the animals are too smart for us. The only solution remaining is for us to be relocated and the area left for the animals as a game reserve,” said Odongo.
He said some residents have tried to use poison to trap the animals, while others have used some physical traps, but all these have been in vain.
But Sila Alai, a village elder said relocating the residents may be a too huge task to achieve.
“We grew up in this village, and our grandfathers were buried here. We may not be able to abandon our heritage because the government has failed to contain the wild animals,” he said.
Clarice Anyango, a widow who lives alone in the village says she has abandoned farming after the animals left her empty-handed in two planting seasons.
“The animals do not give a damn to women. They gave me a chase from my own home, and I decided never to engage in farming again as I have no man in this home to stop them,” she said, adding that her 30 chickens were not spared in the attack.
She said the animals have turned her roof into their playing ground where they jump and roll after a busy day in the maize fields.
Joseph Nyongesa, the KWS Regional Senior Warden admitted that his office was aware of the menace in the area.
He however noted that his office has been trying to intervene, in collaboration with the village administrators, and that turning the village into a game reserve is not an option.
“I know about the situation, and when they are in such big groups then they are very dangerous. But we are capturing this in our report so that we can help the residents,” he said.
He however could not determine the number of animals in the area, nor the exact form of intervention the service will employ to save the village.