Elephants are crop-raiders and, in the main, this happens at night. They are highly intelligent and can be extremely dangerous when people try to chase them out of fields at night with only a drum or horn at hand.
Our community has not been immune to such elephant crop raiding; they devastate a crop field and it is not unusual for them to destroy a family’s entire year’s food, and livelihood, in one, single raid. Given the success of the mobile boma project where in over 3 years of use no stock animal has been killed in a mobile-boma by either a lion or a hyena, we decided to introduce bee-hive fences in our community. The aims of this project are:
- To ideally eliminate, but at least minimise crop loss and ensure a families food source and income are protected.
- Create new social enterprises, training local beekeepers to produce organic honey and bees wax products for sale the community and region.
- Demonstrate to the community that this is a good way of minimising conflict with the elephants who share our region
Our plan is to use bee hives thought the community to not only protect crops but also forest areas to help with regeneration of native woodland surrounding the community.
THE FULL STORY
There are no fences around Hwange National park or the forestry areas surrounding the park. so elephants cross easily from the protected area to the communal area.
In Kenya 80% of elephants have been stopped from entering fields due to bee-hive fences. Dr Lucy King and the team at the Elephants and Bees Project came up with the idea, after observing that elephants stayed away from trees with hives inside. As a result of this observation, bee hives were strung up around the perimeter of fields and as an elephant tries to enter the field, will move the rope that in-turn wakes up the bees.
The sound and smell deter the elephants, as well as new ‘structures’ on the landscape.
Given an elephant’s primary sense is smell, this can be used to protect crop fields, as they hate the smell of chillies and bees. We are currently setting up the bee-hives in key points and testing a combined barrier of bee-hives and chillies in 3 fields along the protected area boundary.
Chillies are currently grown in community gardens as they require water throughout the year they cannot survive the long dry season without water. Chilli soaked cloths strung up on ropes between beehives will be tested. The bee hives have had great success in Kenya but to protect a whole boundary and surround all fields will require huge amounts of hives. The combination of bees and chillies allows for the added benefits that come with the establishing a beekeeping initiative in the community.
It has been found that hives in trees are raided and destroyed at the beginning of winter which leaves bees in danger. Providing hives for the community both for families to have access to sustainable honey collection and to create income generation means there are multiple positive and regenerative benefits including increased pollination of crops.
Manufacturing the bee hives.
Local herders during beekeeper training.
We hope our local organic honey and bees wax products aren’t too far away!
As part of our Co-Herd Program, local herders have been making hives following the design of the barefoot bee-keeper‘ to make sure the health and well-being of the bee is put first. Once manufactured the bee hive boxes are strung up around the perimeter of field, so that as an elephant tries to enter the field, they will move the rope and disturb the bees.
Manufacturing the bee hives and also training to be beekeepers provides provide new skills to our community’s young herders and opportunity for them to generate funds for their families. While our initial focus is manufacturing bee hive fences to protect local crops, in the longer term the bee hives will also eventually be used in forest areas in and around the communal area to protect trees and aid the environmental regeneration of local native vegetation and forests.
We are in the process of setting up 3 test sites along the boundary with the protected area and several community members have been trained in beekeeping, to take care of these sites. In addition our locally trained, Co-heard, carpenters are busily making the bee hives.
Once established, these bee hive fence will bring another new business to our community’s local economy as a part of our overall strategy to build a number of social enterprises from selling honey and wax products.
The interconnection between all these different aspects is how we like to work, caring for all life. You may remember our motto: Earth Care People Care, Fair Share.
Can you support the bee hive fencing project?
Soft Foot Alliance is very excited to add this new program to our overall strategy. By local standards, this a very expensive program for us.
A bee keeper suit: US$60
Bee keeping equipment kit: US$100 per person, including smoker/brush/knife
Bee keeping training: US$250 per person
Donations to support this important project would be very welcome.