Lately, I have been returning to focus on Africa Now and its many projects. This particular project in which Africa Now is involved involves elephants and chilli peppers. Now, this will take a bit of explaining, so I will let Africa Now do that and post their words below.
“Project: Chilli Production and Elephant Conservation, Zambezi Basin
“Communities across the Zambezi Basin (in an area taking in parts of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique) are largely reliant on cotton as their primary source of cash. However, world cotton markets are subject to significant fluctuations, and the crop itself exhausts soil nutrients, which over time necessitates the use of considerably more land than other crops. This constant need for expanding farms into new land has placed the communities in direct conflict with wildlife and, in particular, elephants. With fewer natural resources to rely on, elephants frequently destroy crops, and communities have in turn been driven to killing elephants.
“Research conducted by communities and the Mid Zambezi Elephant Project (MZEP) has revealed that chilli peppers are a natural deterrent to elephants and other wildlife, as the animals find the crop unpalatable. Furthermore, burning low-grade chilli oil (essentially a by-product of the crop) drives wildlife away from the farms. Chillies do not exhaust soil nutrients and have a far higher price and a more stable market than cotton.
“In Zimbabwe, this project worked in conjunction with farmers, MZEP, and the Chilli Pepper Company and introduced chilli peppers as a cash crop within the project region. Africa Now is now expanding the project to Zambia, where we will continue to work with farmers to develop their ability to market chillies, and will develop farmer organisations capable of negotiating and securing trade with regional and international buyers.”
“Mention of the Chilli Pepper Company made me even more curious, so I decided to pay their web site a visit. There, the Chilli Pepper Company wrote:
“Humans and Elephants: The Problem
Africa's human population is increasing at nearly 4% per year. African elephant populations have generally stabilised in the last decade, and are increasing in Southern Africa, yet continent-wide, only 20% of their range is formally protected. Increasingly, rural farmers and elephants share the same areas as rural agriculture expands and elephant rangeland is compressed.
“In this situation elephants can cause widespread damage to a farmer's crops, and compete with communities for land and resources. Conversely, the conversion of woodland to farmland threatens the elephant's survival within many landscapes. Managing agriculture and elephants within the same area therefore presents a complex problem.
“The Mid-Zambezi Valley
The Mid-Zambezi is a flat low-lying dry forest ecosystem that historically has been rich in the diversity of mammal and birds. People have been farming within the region over 400 years, but it is only recently that large-scale settlement has developed. Rural farmers have resettled the area in large numbers in the past 20 years, due to mounting land pressure in the rest of the country. The human population has consequently grown at nearly 10% per year, and agricultural expansion has been largely unplanned.
“The majority of the population is small-scale semi-subsistence farmers who grow maize, sorghum and cotton during the wet season. Dry season cultivation is limited to small gardens in the beds of the major rivers, where green maize and vegetables are grown.
“There are approx. 3000 elephants that range throughout the study area. These elephants utilize core habitats including the Mavuradona Wilderness Area (MWA), a 600km2 region in the Zambezi Escarpment, and the Panyame Wilderness area, Fig. 1 - click for a detailed view within the Zambezi Valley (fig 1). Elephants make long distance migrations annually between these two refuges, crossing densely populated agricultural land.
“Many RDCs in Zimbabwe have been granted the authority to manage their own wildlife under a national programme called CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources). In both Muzarabani and Guruve districts all natural resources are managed through the CAMPFIRE scheme. Elephants provide the greatest proportion of all revenues to CAMPFIRE, and as such are the key natural resource. The RDCs are faced with a challenging task: balancing the requirements of rural farmers on the one hand, and a valuable wildlife resource on the other. EPD was established in Oct 1997 in response to a request from Muzarabani and Guruve Rural District Councils (RDCs) for management-based elephant information.
Conflict between rural farmers and elephants is widespread and common. Elephants raid food crops and grain stores, damage housing, and occasionally injure and kill people and their livestock. Their presence near villages can cause widespread fear, and has many secondary implications for rural villagers. Elephants compete with villagers for resources such as wild fruits and water. Farmers have to protect their crops at night, an activity that is dangerous, reduces productivity, and increases the risks of catching diseases such as malaria.
“It is widely accepted that rural farmers bear the costs of living with elephants, and receive little of the benefits. Even where community-based conservation initiatives exist, and elephants generate large revenues, little of the money is seen at the rural household level. Resolving conflict between humans and elephants is widely recognised as one of the most pressing wildlife management issues in Africa, because the costs must be reduced and the benefits raised if elephants are to persist in agricultural areas.
Efforts to reduce conflict between rural farmers and elephants have centred around crop protection, and have included electric fencing, chemical repellents, disturbance shooting and traditional methods of chasing elephants. Rural farmers have many different traditional methods for protecting crops from elephants. These methods vary according to region, and include beating drums, cracking whips, burning fires and a variety of other noise making devices. These methods have had some success, but no single method has been entirely effective. High-tech approaches have maintenance problems and high capital costs. The effectiveness of traditional methods diminishes over time as elephants habituate to them.
“If they are to provide long-term solutions, methods for crop protection need to be financially and technologically within the capacities of the people implementing them. Community-based options for crop protection have good potential for sustainability, because they are co-developed with the farmers, and utilise locally available resources. In this respect they will be more appropriate than centralised or 'imposed' methods.
Habitat loss has been identified as the factor that most threatens elephant survival outside protected areas. Farmers increasingly transform the natural landscape by clearing woodland habitat for agriculture. Elephants, while tolerant of human disturbance to some degree, are unable to survive when the natural habitat becomes dominated by farmland. It is therefore imperative that elephant habitat requirements are understood, so that land can be prioritised for conservation.
“The following activities are currently under way in the Mid-Zambezi Valley:...”
And here is where I will leave you. It’s not that I am mean or want to tease you, but I really want you to visit the web site of the Elephant Pepper Development Trust. So if you are interested in this problem you will visit them at the Elephant Pepper Development Trust .
One other thing I would like to mention about Africa Now is that they have two fundraising events coming up in 2006. They have a 10K run planned to take place in London on July 2, 2006 and a cycling trip planned through the Oxfordshire countryside later in the year.
Drop by Africa Now and see what else they have going on.