The objectives of this project were to:
1. Test a new boma (stockade) design to see if it kept livestock safe from lions
Result: In over 3 years of use, as we have tested the design, not a single animal has been killed in a mobile-boma by either a lion or a hyena
2. Test the change in acceptance of community members to local predator, as a result of the reduced stock loss because of new boma design
Result: Community can see that this is a good way of minimising conflict with lions and hyenas.
Based on the success of the mobile bomas we now have a waiting list of families who want to join the program. You can help to meet the need and protect lions and people by donating the cost of the materials for a mobile boma.
The materials to produce a mobile boma cost USD $400.
Bomas are made locally by members of the community.
THE FULL STORY
To ensure that magnificent predators, such as lions and hyenas, thrive we have to continue to test and refine strategies to minimise human-wildlife conflict. Nowhere is this more important than in rural communities bordering significant wildlife populations.
Undoubtably, there are great projects that have provided insights into understanding how to manage this human-wildlife conflict. For many years Brent worked with Oxford’s WildCRU, on their Hwange Lion Research project; becoming a specialist on the conflict between lions and people. Brent set up the Zimbabwe version of the Kenyan Lion Guardians, The Long Shields, which continues today.
But Brent realised that in order to make meaningful, long-term changes to people’s behaviour in terms of lions and the conflict between the two, one must view the situation from the people’s perspective FIRST. Then you have to accept that communities are unlikely to share their environments with lions, until you have a system that would keep their livelihoods safe from these predators, and, as a result, ensure that families and communities prospered. To change community members beliefs about lions and hyenas, it is critical to protect cattle and other livestock at night – The Mobile Boma Project Evolved
A boma is a stockade in which we keep livestock safe at night and away from predators like lions and hyaenas.
In Zimbabwe, the traditional boma is made from timber poles with a single entrance. Traditional bomas are static and, as a result, manure (which is used on crops) builds up inside. This not only makes the boma unpleasant to work in, especially in the wet season, but can also be a breeding ground for disease. The build-up of smell attracts flies and predators alike.
The traditional boma takes a significant time to construct and given the amount of timber needed the construction has a very high impact on the native trees.
The open lattice design of traditional bomas means that livestock are visible, and this is a major factor effecting predation of livestock within.
Research has shown that if a lion can’t see through a barrier it won’t jump in. Similarly, for cattle, if they can’t see the lion outside the boma (even if they smell it and hear it) they won’t break out in panic, which in turn attracts predators.
Combined all of this means that the traditional boma has many drawbacks and provides insufficient protection from predation by lions. We addressed these limitations with a new design: The Zero-Visibility, Mobile Boma. In over 3 years of use, as we have tested the design, not a single animal has been killed in a mobile-boma by either a lion or a hyena.
The design has evolved over time to the point where we have settled on an optimum size, construction technique and speed/ease of set up. The design sews ‘trouser legs’ into the material every 3 meters and that means the material is placed over and pulled down along each pole. The boma design is circular which reduces the cost of production whilst maintaining the same floor area.
As a result of all our experiments, we have concluded:
- This optimum design uses just 24 meters of solid canvas wall, with stakes every 3 meters
- Makes it quick and easy to put up and take down (15 minutes) and move
- Is sturdy and stable (less likely to flap about in the wind)
- Holds up to 20 cattle (on average 15)
- With that number of cattle, 2-3 families can share the boma, anything higher than that means it is more difficult for the families to negotiate and collaborate.
Impact on Human-Wildlife Conflict
In over 3 years of use, as we have tested the design, not a single animal has been killed in a mobile boma by either a lion or a hyena. This has resulted in the community members being much more open to discussions about sharing the space with predators. Community can see that this is a good way of minimising conflict with lions and hyenas. Today, more and more families are requesting help to buy The Zero-Visibility, Mobile Bomas.
In addition, we are seeing a greater level of acceptance of living with predators. Together with the mobile boma project, the work on permaculture is re-educating the community’s understanding of a healthy environment. This, in turn, will enable more people to see that their prosperity is intrinsically linked to the ability of both people and wildlife to thrive together.
To further engage the community in the project, and to manufacture the mobile bomas in the most cost effective way, we have decided to produce the bomas locally and train local machinists. The positions are offered as part of the Co-Herd Program.
Each Zero-Visibly Mobile Boma costs USD $400, which includes the costs of materials and wages of the machinist.
Currently, we only have one industrial sewing machine and, given the backlog of families interested in receiving a Mobile Boma, we would love to purchase more sewing machines and employ more people. Each industrial sewing machine and stand costs between $1,500 and $2,000, depending on the make and model.
If you would like to purchase a machine to help us increase production, please follow the link above and tick the donation box that you want to purchase a new sewing machine. Thank you.
This project could not have come to fruition so quickly without the years of research and work undertaken by Alan Savory and The Africa Centre for Holistic Management team. Just one aspect of their work in this area has resulted in what is often termed “The Golden Formula”. When Alan’s formula is followed, it enables farmers to get more than 3 years fertility in a space without the need for additional fertilizers. This work has been critical to many of the projects we are trialing in our local community and or mission to re-build a rural, permaculture tradition.
Holistic Grazing And Participatory Leadership
In 2017 we started a conversation with the community about the past, present and the future. Using participatory workshops, with an outstanding team, we created a space for ‘conversations that matter’ were had and all voices were heard. These workshops provided a foundation to build relationships and see how we can work all together towards the future we all dream of.
What was clear from these workshops is that we have to work on fixing the degraded land, and that this can be done by using livestock to mimic large herds of herbivores. This work is called holistic management and is based on decades of research and development by Alan Savory. Alan’s strategies are providing the groundwork to attain a future where land is rich and fertile and water is abundant.
We will use this participatory leadership style to continue our work in a way that is inclusive of all, which is a vital part of the Soft Foot Alliance’s approach. We believe that knowledge is held in the collective intelligence and further workshops and space will be created in this way.
Following a holistic grazing plan is the landscape version of the mobile boma in terms of fertility of the land and it’s ability to retain water due to higher organic content in the soil. Herders and livestock owners need on-going training to apply this way of herding, we believe that once the results are seen on the landscape further communities will want to implement this method, and it will become a regenerative habit!
IMPACT ON FARMING AND THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT
In addition to the impact on human-wildlife conflict, the mobile bomas helped improve soil quality and, as a result crop yields. Similarly, there is not such a high demand for local trees, from forests surrounding the community.
When a traditional, static boma is used, manure from the boma is collected and placed in the fields but this only accounts for the manure itself. The key component that is lost is the urine containing the important nitrogen compounds.
When a mobile boma is used and placed over the crop field, the cattle fertilise the field directly with their urine and manure. Their hooves break up the surface of the soil, both aerating it and allowing the ‘fertiliser’ to soak in.
People are seeing the results with their own eyes and this is the strongest ‘sell’:
- Zero predation in over 3 years
- Over 30% increase in crop yields (as the image shows, there is a difference between the (right) side of the field ‘treated’ with a mobile boma and the (left side) that wasn’t ‘treated’ with the mobile bona.
This, in turn, has resulted in the community being open to a number of permaculture initiatives we have since introduced.
High demand for trees as poles for traditional bomas has an impact on the native vegetation and forest around the community.
The introduction of the Zero-Visibility Mobile Boma, together with other projects, such as Rocket Stoves is helping to take stress off the local environment and enables beautiful native woodland to regenerate.