EWB is pleased to share the news that this crop season (2019/2020) has been fairly successful with high crop yield in the Chobe Enclave, largely due to both good rains and functioning tractors availability. Proud that EWB’s EleSenses elephant repellent program has expanded beyond the Chobe Enclave and Kasane/Kazungula, thus we are now collaborating with farmers in Pandamatenga (Chobe District,) Makalamabedi and Tsutsubega (Ngamiland District.)
To select participants, we interview farmers that express interest and conduct an assessment of their fields. This process is important for us to have a better understanding of what mitigations the farmer has used previously; what they believe is effective or does not work; what direction elephants tend to approach their fields from; whether other animals cause damage; the distance a field is from wildlife corridors and other settlements; the motivation and purpose for farming; and, what kind of mitigations they would be willing to use. This interview allows us to suggest and make informed recommendations on what mitigation may work best for that particular farmer and their fields.
To monitor, on a weekly basis we call or visit each participant, to attain an elephant activity report. We are happy that we have not received any reported incidences of elephant mortality (shot) in their villages or near their farms. However, we have documented several elephant “preventions” whereas, the mitigations have repelled elephants from entering fields. Only 4 elephant raids have been reported: two of which were due to human error and the farmers admittedly had not turned on the electric rope; the other two raids, elephants found new entry points into fields where the solar, strobe-light barrier was located on the opposite side of the field and appropriate changes were made. Despite the raids, the mitigation results are encouraging and illustrate a 100% success rate, when the mitigations are used in the correct manner.
We are excited that six of our farmers have started harvesting, and the rest hope to complete harvest by May. Unfortunately, a few of the farmers have lost part of their crops due to insects or some, their maize crops as the high floods of the Chobe river system arrived. But, the waters can be taken as an opportunity to plant other vegetables late in the season, so will adjust their mitigation tools, as needed.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown imposed by the Botswana Government, we are continuing our support to the farmers and monitoring the EleSenses program. The need for a successful crop-yield appears even greater now to support families and surrounding community. One mention must be made, in Kavimba, Mr. Likokoto donated his entire crop for his community to access food, as needed… very generous gesture! We will continue to provide updates on the program’s progress in these unprecedented and challenging times.
Additionally, a report of this project has been accepted for publication in the Cambridge journal, Oryx- The International Journal of Conservation, which demonstrates the success of the solar light barrier in deterring elephants from crop raiding. The report should be available for distribution and posted on our Info Publications page, later this month.
We express our sincere appreciation to many for their support of this important program: Tlhokomela Trust, Omogolo Wildlife Trust, the Side by Side initiative donors and the Disney Conservation Fund. We are pleased how the project has formed important relationships, collaborations and provides positive results for rural farmers, communities and helps to save elephants. Thank you!