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Farmers in Mbire find innovative way to reduce human-wildlife conflict

AWF country director Olivia Mufute

THE Southern African region, including Zimbabwe continues to be affected by human-wildlife problems, especially involving elephants that have been increasing in population.

In some instances, this has resulted in loss of lives, while crops in fields are destroyed. Some of the most affected countries in Africa include Kenya, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.

 In Zimbabwe, specifically the Mbire district, farmers have found a new way of reducing the impact of human-elephant conflicts through the use of chilli strings and bricks.

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) country director Olivia Mufute on Monday tweeted: “Farmers in Mbire District have found an innovative way to reduce human-wildlife conflict through the use of chili strings and bricks that chase elephants from their communities.”

Mufute said the farmers were trained by AWF in partnership with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Zimparks and Global Environment Facility to scare the elephants.

Charity Mupunga from Mbire district told NewsDay:  "I woke up one day and found that my crops had been destroyed by elephants. This meant that I would have a low yield.  But with the introduction of chilli strings and bricks, huge harvests are now expected.”

Another farmer, Joseph Chinembiri said:  "We want to thank AWF and their partners for the job well done. We now anticipate huge yields, especially this season.”

The chilli bricks and bombs are made by mixing elephant or buffalo dung with cow dung, some used oil and chilli powder to make a thick paste which is then moulded into bricks or balls.

Once these are completely dry, which can take up to four months; they can then be burnt when the need arises.

Elephants have taken on an iconic status in conservation. A thriving elephant population is seen as indicative of a healthy natural ecosystem. Scientists consider them a keystone wildlife species and tourists do not count a safari trip complete until they see vast herds of elephants.

However, these beloved pachyderms have become a menace in many parts of rural Africa.

In Southern India where elephants live in close proximity to tea and coffee plantations, there have been many surprise encounters with elephants which can lead to human fatalities.

In some areas, conservation organisations have devised an SMS to warn farmers.

If an elephant is spotted, they are alerted, and they text everyone living within two kilometres of the initial contact.

A red elephant alert light on a mast also starts flashing in the vicinity to warn farmers of elephant presence, and this can be set off by dialling its number to warn people returning to their homes in the dark.

The system appears to be very successful in warning people of the presence of elephants.

lFollow Obert on Twitter @osiamilandu

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