ELEPHANT CONSERVATION AND HUMAN ELEPHANT CONFLICT MITIGATION PROGRAMME

CCFA is pleased to support an initiative that is creating harmony between communities and wildlife in the Kunene region of Namibia.

Ombonde People’s Park, located in the Kunene region, is home to desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, lion and cheetah – all vulnerable or threatened in Africa.  The Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation’s (IRDNC) Elephant conservation and human elephant mitigation programme, aims to prevent poaching in the area, while enhancing and building on community ownership of wildlife and natural resources. This is an authentic partnership between community conservancies and the government.

Drought is a constant threat that affects basic living standards and survival. It creates social strains such as unemployment, hunger and an increase in human-wildlife conflict scenarios. Many predators have moved closer to the homesteads, preying on livestock and destroying gardens because they are struggling to source water and food in their own habitats. Similarly, some farmers are encroaching on core wildlife zones in search of better grazing opportunities for their livestock.

There are currently 674 conservancy members working towards the common goal to live peacefully alongside wildlife by employing sustainable livelihood practices.

Various meetings held between January 2018 and August 2019, facilitated by the IRDNC team members, focused on plans to introduce a community garden and erect a solar powered electric fence to protect it from elephants and other wildlife.

Funding for the project was approved after we received a project outline and application at the 2018 Conservation Lab. It is a project that is in line with our overarching ethos: Working with local communities to preserve conservation.

Recently CCFA donated U$25 000 toward the cost of erecting an electric fence around the community’s food garden which is about 140 625 m² (14 hectares). In addition to the fence, we have also secured a commitment from the local council to provide water to the conservancy, to ensure the farming project is sustainable and improves the lives of the community.

The electric fence will be comprised of 3 live strands and 2 earth wires. The energiser is a powerful unit, with 8 Joules stored energy – strong enough to deter elephants. It includes a solar PV panel and cover and operates independently of any grid.

The easy to assemble and maintain system, will be installed by the community and overseen by the IRDNC Human Wildlife Support team. The community has been tasked to nominate a ‘tech savvy’ community member to be trained on how to install the fence and operate the ‘fence tester’ apparatus to allow for fuss free maintenance.  There will be community ownership regarding the upkeep of the property.

 

Although this practical intervention – the installation of an electric fence – has addressed one of the major problems faced by the community, ongoing strategic interaction between the IRDNC and surrounding communities will continue in the form of:

  • Continuing to identify community concerns around the encroaching elephant population, in order to formulate effective actions towards a more peaceful co-existence.
  • Creating and maintaining awareness about the negative impact of elephant poaching as well as the economic and environmental benefits of cohabiting peacefully with the elephants
  • Monitoring of elephant populations and their movements
  • Gathering data around elephant conflict and determining the cost of any damage to properties and farming livestock to find creative solutions to mitigate these situations
  • Incentivising communities by adding value through tourism, offering training that will enable them to find jobs in the wildlife tourism industry.