For the farmers of Lendoiya (in Tanzania) the word “tembo” (elephant) has for a long time brought a chill effect to the community. However there may be a rather simple way to solve human-wildlife conflicts with elephants.
The cry,“Tembo,” means elephants are invading (or about to invade) the farms. It means crops are going to be destroyed, and possibly people are going to be injured or worse…killed.
This village right on the perimeters of Arusha National park is naturally vulnerable to human-wildlife conflicts with elephants. This prompted Moses with AFeWiS (Alert For Endangered Wildlife Species) to do a survey to determine what could be done to save elephants and crops alike.
The Village Chair told Moses, “Last year elephants invaded my farm and damaged half of the maize and all I could do is watch.” Understandably, this was a bitter experience for him. Moses heard similar stories from other farmers bordering the National Park.
Farming is a key source of income and sustainability for this village. Invasions by elephants leaves long lasting impact, both financially and in feeding their families.
After completing the survey of human-wildlife conflicts with elephants, Moses jumped into action. He laid out a plan. He reached out to Nikela for help.
As we liked his plan to build a bee hive fence we funded phase 1 to build 10 bee hives and install them along the village perimeter.
How are the bee hive fences working so far?
Mr. Baraka is one of the beneficiaries from the AFeWiS Meru Beehive Fence Project Funded by Nikela. He said up to now bees have occupied “five beehives” of the ten installed.
Here is the really good news:
Mr. Baraka said that over 50 elephants used to cross boundaries and destroy food crops like maize (corn), potatoes and banana plantations, on his and nearby farms. However, since the beehives were mounted (four and a half weeks ago) he noticed a difference in elephant numbers encroaching his area. The number dropped to 25… that’s half!
Then even more recently only 20 elephants were seen early in the morning at 6am heading back to the Park. Mr. Baraka is convinced that as long as the bees keep on increasing and occupying the rest of the beehives (installed and yet to be installed) in the whole area owned by the five farmers… no elephants will come back. He simply said ‘’Now I have realized that bees and elephants are two good enemies.’’
Mr.Daima, one of the farmers on whose farm two of the bee hives were installed was very perplexed at first. How could bees be the answer to solve human-wildlife conflicts with elephants? How could bees stop elephants from invading his crops?
Well, four and a half weeks later he says, “I now know that it is possible for humans and elephants to live in harmony. It’s only been a few weeks and I haven’t had to stay on watch for fear of invasion.” He went on to say that if the rains are merciful, this time around, he will harvest in great bounty.
Mr. Wela, another beneficiary of the project stated that “The presence of bees have kept elephants from encroaching my farm and am looking forward to gaining extra income by selling honey in a few months’ time.” The wife to Mr.wela also said in a joyful cheer when asked how she thinks the project will benefit them, “We will now have crops to cultivate thanks to bees who chase away elephants.”
And oh the honey!
Within two to three months each of the beehives installed will produce up to 10 kilos of honey. Honey is a very pricey commodity in the market. Moses believes that while the villagers of Lendoiya are now witnessing the first benefits of the beehive fences they will soon harvest a complementary source of income through the same. A new hope has dawned for the farmers and villagers of Lendoiya. They can look forward to tomorrow and they now understand that they have a role to play in conserving nature while peacefully co-existing with wildlife.
Unexpected larger benefit
A woman whose farm is in a neighboring community pointed out that they have witnessed a reduction in number of elephants grazing beyond the park’s borders since the installation of the bee hive fence.
This may be happening as Lendoiya village is a route for elephants leaving the park and moving into other nearby communities. So with helping this village others are inadvertently helped also.
Farmers in the area benefiting from the beehive fences are calling bees the “peace makers”. Bees are now their solution to solve human-wildlife conflicts with elephants, simply because they act as a buffer between the farmers and elephants. This keeps all living in harmony.