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Over the past few months interest in our Beehive Fence project has contined to grow. Here’s an example of a recent press article (this one from the Guiardian newspaper here in England) showing how Dr Lucy King’s work is continuing to capture the imagination of many African countries, in this case Uganda.
Lucy and her team at Save the Elephants have continued their discussions with the Honey Care Africa company regarding production and sales of honey from the project, and following assessment of the active farms in the Kirumbi-Mwakoma area, five new fences are being erected to add to the two initial trial ones built in 2010.
Over the next few days I’ll post blog entries to update you on the great progress being made, but meanwhile here’s a reminder of the challenges faced by the Sagalla community that led to the trial fences being built in the first place.
The Tsavo West and East National Parks are the largest protected area in Kenya, and are home to over 11,000 elephants. However the park’s boundary fences around Voi and the Sagalla community are in poor condition and therefore provide no real barrier between wildlife and communities such as those in Mwakoma where the Kileva Eastfield Primary School is located, and in Kirumbi where the Kileva Community Centre is located.
As a consequence farmers suffer regular raids from elephants on their crops, bringing hardship to them and their families and putting the elephants in danger from reprisal attacks (see blog post http://kileva.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/elephants-hunger-at-eastfield/ for example). That’s why, at the beginning of 2009 I contacted Dr Lucy King of the Save The Elephants (STE) organization after hearing of her research into the interaction between elephants and bees and its potential application as a natural elephant deterrent.
Later in 2009 Lucy and her team conducted a survey with 10 farmers in the area which confirmed that crop-raiding by elephants was indeed a major a problem, and so Kileva and STE (together with help from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund) agreed to jointly fund a project to build beehive fences around two of the farms, one in Kirumbi and the other in Mwakoma.
The First Fences
With assistance and guidance from Kilele anbd other community leaders, STE trained six carpenters to construct 36 Kenyan Top Bar beehives, and 10 women to construct flat-thatched roofs.
They then constructed two beehive fences around the two of the ‘front-line’ farms that were known to suffer badly from frequent crop-raiding.
By June 2010, after 10 months of farming activity covering one core harvest season, there had been 13 attempted raids recorded on the two farms involving 52 elephants, but only 1 bull elephant managed to break through one of the fences. Consequently the trial was declared a success and since then the farmers have maintained the fences correctly and harvested some honey.
Encouraged by the success of the trial and the subsequent interest shown from around the world, the STE team now plan to install beehive fences around additional farms in the Mwakoma/Kirumbi area that are badly affected by crop-raiding elephants. Those plans will be described in my next few blog posts.