Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Elephant deterrent project piloted in Boteti

RAKOPS – As Parliament debated the Tourism Policy last week, stakeholders in the Boteti area embarked on a human-wildlife conflict alleviation project.

A private company, Holistique Organics was constructing a ’belt’ called Elephant Deterrent Web at a cluster farmers’ area called Makhi Farms located between Rakops and Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).

A ploughing field belonging to one of the cluster members was sampled up for the project.

The construction was led by the area’s farmers’ association in collaboration with the Boteti Rural Development Trust(BRDT). Birdlife Botswana, a Non-Governmental Organisation renowned for working with Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in empowering households came in as the project’s facilitators and advisors. So was the Technical Advisory Committee(TAC) represented by Department of Wildlife and National Park(DWNP) employees.

Explaining how the belt deters elephants, the Contractor; Enoch Kegodile, said the belt is reflective orange in colour – which looks like fire to elephants as they are known to be very scared of flames.

The belt also sends false information to approaching elephant(s); that its kind is nearby, through sounds productions.  It is capable of producing 50 different sound pitches in seconds. It is fastened to poles that are 2.7 metres, a metre of which is buried on the ground at time of installation. 1.7 metres of the poles stand out-about the view-level of an elephant.  When the wind blows, the sound pitches can reach elephants some 10 kilometres away. This attracts their advancing movements towards the belt as elephants are believed to hear each other 10 kilometres away. The vibrating sounds can be absorbed into the ground because of the belt’s thickness (50 cm) and can keep sounding even after the wind has long passed. The vibration gives signals to the elephant’s ‘feet’ that indeed their kind is near. At the sight of the belt, as it draws nearer the elephant realizes that it has been tricked. It returns.

The belt is a product of local concept by Kegodile and his partners. It is manufactured in South Africa and; according to him has been installed in some areas in the Chobe and Ngamiland and has proven to be efficient.  His company is based in Kazungula near Kasane.

The project is the extension of the trainings and capacity building workshops that Birdlife Botswana, through funds from the Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (SGP-GEF) conducted to empower communities on issues of CBO’s project implementation, funds utlilisation and general governance.

Said Tirelo Ramogwera of Birdlife Botswana, “It is the first adopted strategy to control human-elephant conflicts. There are ongoing arrangements to plough chilies which the Trust will distribute to farmers and extra product will be for sale as a way of trying to generate income for themselves. From the past workshop it has shown that the best way to manage and control problem animals is to integrate different methods and ensure continuous monitoring.”

Chairperson of Farmers Association in Rakops and surrounding areas, Gabayo Manyoni however rejects the use of chilies as alternative solution to human elephants conflict alleviation.

“I tried to adopt it from somewhere I once went and I have concluded that it is not efficient. So I am just banking on this new one though it is just for trials. We are just doing trials,” said Manyoni.

He said he was aware that parliament had just debated tourism policy but his association does not yet have any plans of embarking on agro tourism.

Chairperson of the BRDT, Gaseitsiwe Setefane said they had a plot, which had it not been for Covid19 delays could already have been allocated the Trust. The plot is earmarked for construction of a lodge. The trust is mobilizing for funds to tap into the tourism industry.

Abigail Engleton Director of GEF-SGP said the project is part of the bigger project her office is sponsoring to the tune of more than P500,000 to implement its Phase 6 cycle of tackling climate change through projects that mitigate against climate change impacts.

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