Scovia Rwabirema lives with her three kids Kyori (red printed dress), Kayesu (stripe jumper) and Sam (Blue stripe shirt) at her make-shift home where she has been hired to keep elephants from destroying the crops. She has lived here for six months. “Right now whenever we hear an elephant coming through the trees all we can do is make noise. I bang on a jerry can. We make noise also for others to hear and come help. When the elephant is closer we light the flashlight. Last week an elephant came last week and we started to make noise and lighting a fire so it won’t cross the garden and luckily it didn’t spoil anything and it went back into the forest,” she says.
How difficult is it to stop an elephant from raiding gardens? Tough. Families camp out in their gardens throughout the season, while children miss school to protect fields and their family’s food supply, in hopes the stones they throw will keep elephants at bay. Many families have given up farming their land altogether. With tensions mounting and the urgent need to reduce human-animal conflict within the area, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, 6 communities numbering over 9000 people and Raising The Village have come together to use the elephant’s only natural deterrent – bees! Building a 50-kilometer fence spanning the border of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we are eliminating elephant access points to farmers’ fields.
Courtesy of: 99percentinvisible.org
The fence consists of locally constructed beehives connected by wires. When an elephant attempts to cross the barrier, hives begin to swing causing the bees to swarm. Elephants are sensitive to bee stings around their eyes and behind their ears, because who isn’t? These intelligent creatures have impressive memories and are known to communicate their experiences to the rest of the herd. Over a short period of time word will spread fast and deter future crop raids. The fence will also reduce the always present threat of poachers by limiting elephants’ exposure outside of the national park and having staying protected by UWA rangers.
For our community partners, protecting croplands is necessary to kicking off RTV agricultural improvement programs and diversifying households sources of income. With over 1,400 hives being introduced in these communities, we’re anticipating over 20 tons of honey in the first 12 months for sale and consumption! Check out our Blog, Instagram and Facebook pages over the coming months so you can follow the villages’ progress in constructing the elephant beehive fence and raising bees! (insert bee pun here…)
With the help of indigenous Batwa, the team has been able to locate access points and track elephant movements ensure the complete coverage of potential raids during the surveying process.
Ready to travel! The fence consists of traditional and improved beehives to facilitate the adoption of improved bee keeping practices by providing a visual and yield comparison
Beehives under construction at the local mill.