By Warren Glam – Content Writer
For many East African farmers, who work through every scorching hour they can find, night is far longer than day. At night they must wait, with their beds little more than prisons for weary limbs and restless minds.
If they’re lucky, they’ll doze awhile and wake to discovertheir crops intact. If luck is against them, elephants will have cleared their crops by dawn. This is one reality of human-wildlife conflict. Another is that animals have lessroom to breathe as people encroach on their habitat. Indeed, East Africa is a land of finite resources, where there is only so much of everything to go around. Food, water, space: people and wildlife share it all.
With thisin mind, it’s difficult toblamethe conflicton any of the region’smainstakeholders. What’s clearer, though, is that long-term fixes need to cover every relevant interest. Fortunately, through smart thinking and the right respect for communities and wildlife, it’s possible to find solutions that are good for all parties.Here is a look at the causes of the conflict and how East Africa is creatingharmony.
Rural communities in East Africa keep livestock and farm to support themselves. This is their way of life and it cannot continue without resources. But as thesecommunitiesgrow, so do the demands theyplace on their corner of the continent. Essentially, necessity has pushed them to encroach on land that has nurtured the region’s wildlife for millennia.
Herbivores, such as bush pigs and buffalos, cause extensive crop damagewhen enteringfarmland,denying communities the chanceto earnmuch-neededincomes.Elephants are, perhaps, the most dangerous for farmers. In addition to raiding crops, they’vebeen known to trample people to death.
As for carnivores, landowners drive out their natural prey toaccommodate livestock. Hyenas,leopardsand other predatorsoften turn to cattleasanalternative source of food.They also pose a threat topeople movingbetween their homes, farms and rivers.
Rural communities in Kenya and Tanzania harbour deep resentment towards wildlife.They view large carnivores as the most troublesome, though there is evidence that resentment for one species can spill over into dislike for others. It is a contagion that spreads all too easily.
Retaliatory killings are a fact, with communitiesusing deadly forcetoavengethe loss of livestock and farmland. That said, cultural factors also drive wildlife killings. Warriors in Tanzania win gifts of cattle from their communities if they spear a lion,sometimes as many as 20 cattle for one kill. It is a proven route to wealth. Prestige follows, too, with warriors receiving the attention of women and enjoying celebrations held in their honour.
It might be unsurprising that these communitiessee no value in conservation. After all, theyreceive almost nobenefits from wildlife.But, the intensity of their resentment towards wildlife can also result in themturning a blind eye to poaching.In fact, poachers in these circumstances become Robin Hood personas in the eyes of locals.
Despite the history of conflict between communities and wildlife in East Africa, innovation in the region has begun to create harmony. Collaboration between conservancies and locals is driving the progress.
A diverse range of elephant repellents has successfully kept the creatures away from crops. Chilli plants and beehive fences are among the items locals use, with the latter doubling as a source of extra income from the honey produced.
Improving livestock enclosures called bomas is another effectivemethod to ease conflict. Reinforcing these bomas makes them better for keeping out predators, and preventing livestockfrom straying away after dusk.Maasai in northern Tanzania use a local tree calledCommiphoraas fenceposts.
A conservancy in Northern Kenya called Ewaso Lions facilitates the Warrior Watch Programme.The initiative involves Samburu warriors in conservation, leveraging theknowledge of lions they’ll have accumulated by spending most of their lives in the wild.Given their high standing in theircommunity, these warriors are compelling ambassadors for reducing human-wildlife conflicts and raising awareness of the value of wildlife.
Education is a powerful tool to change local perceptions of elephants.Sending local children to schoolis the first step towardsachieving this, withconservanciessuch as Ol Pejeta devotingsome money toimproving the quality of education in the region. After that, the focus is on developing futureconservationists, who can taketheir knowledgehome to their parentsand communities.
Asilia has launched the Twende Porini program which involves inviting children from local communities and villages to stay in our camps for a few days and take part in wildlifeeducationand game drives. In this way perceptions and,ultimately, attitudeschange and future conservationists are born. You can see more about Twende Porini here and watch this video to see exactly what the children get up to.
At our core, we aim to empower crucial wilderness areas in East Africa to thrive, benefitting people and nature alike. In doing so, educating and working together with local communities is extremely important.By making bold, and often pioneering, investments into areas that are ecologically and economically vulnerable, we aim to turn these areas into viable conservation economies, benefitting both the local communities as well as the environment.
We acknowledge that people and nature are inseparable partners, so we work closely with communities, authorities, NGOs and industry partners to achieve the best possible long-term outcomes for all concerned. With the help of our guests, who contribute a levy of US$5 for each night that they stay with us, we’re able to make the most significant positive impact towards our goal of empowering these areas, including the communities and wildlife that call them home.
More Positive Impact Articles
Electric Vehicles: The Future Of East African Safari Travel?12 January 2020
October 2019 saw the arrival of our first electric, solar-powered safari vehi...
Where To Go And What To Do In 2020: Our Top East African Safari Picks17 December 2019
As a new year begins, we are incredibly lucky to be able to look back at a ye...
The Future of Air Travel: Carbon-Neutral East African Safaris21 November 2019
Earlier this year, we launched our exclusive Asilia by Air offering. We caref...
Its Our 15th Birthday: Celebrating 15 Years of Making a Genuine Difference08 November 2019
This year, we're celebrating our 15th birthday and commemorating 15 years of...