Organic Elephant Repellent Brings Hope To Villagers
Tikobane Trust Director, Ndlelende Ncube showing off elephant repellents surrounding a field. Image by Ndlelende Ncube
In Matabeleland North, villagers plagued by human-wildlife conflict, particularly with elephants, have discovered a ray of hope. An organic elephant repellent developed by Tikobane Trust is empowering communities to protect their crops and homes, fostering coexistence between humans and wildlife.
MATABELELAND (The Citizen Bulletin) — Maledi Moyo (65) groans in pain as she tries to reach the top of her metal-springed hospital bed where she has been admitted for the past four weeks. Despite her condition, she receives little to no attention from the nurses on duty.
She now uses a wheelchair to move to and from the hospital restroom. The wheelchair has found a new park station right next to her bed covered with old sky blue blankets.
Moyo, once again, narrowly escaped death when she recently survived an elephant attack in her home area. Despite her fortunate escape, she harbours a deep conviction that wildlife will eventually claim her life one day.
With blood-red eyes filled with tears, she narrates her encounters with wildlife in Phelandaba village, Tsholotsho, and how she landed in Ward B1 at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.
She was initially admitted at Tsholotsho District Hospital in Matabeleland North, before she was transferred to Bulawayo for further treatment.
Mpilo Central Hospital is a referral centre for Matabeleland North, South and Midlands provinces.
“I was herding cattle in our forests when I came face to face with an elephant roaming around bushes with its young one,” narrates Moyo. “I don’t know what it (elephant) was thinking but it charged at me.”
She says she could not run faster due to old age.
“I fell down and it trampled on my left thigh. For a moment I thought I was dead as I couldn’t move or stand up anymore. I had to crawl to nearby bush shrubs to hide.”
Maledi Moyo, 65-year-old woman
Moyo adds: “I literally crawled back to my homestead, and thanks to my neighbours they rushed me to Tsholotsho District Hospital for medical attention.”
But there was no medication, and she was referred to Bulawayo.
“This is the second time now that I'm being hospitalised due to attacks by wild animals,” she concludes her story with a loud cry.
“Firstly, it was an attack by a buffalo in the fields which left me with a scar that needed eleven stitches on my upper abdomen.”
Moyo is one of the many villagers in Matabeleland North who are victims of human wildlife conflicts.
For the past decade now, Zimbabwean communities residing close to national parks, especially in Matabeleland North, have continued to bear the brunt of human wildlife conflict, particularly those involving elephants, lions, hyenas, buffaloes, crocodiles, baboons, and wild dogs.
Scores of villagers have lost their lives, livestock and crops.
According to a Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) 2021 report, 71 deaths and 50 injuries were recorded compared to 60 deaths and 40 injuries in 2020. Community members retaliate for their losses, but they face arrest under the country’s laws for killing wild animals.
In an effort to foster harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants in rural areas that share borders with wildlife, Tikobane Trust has introduced an innovative organic elephant repellent. This groundbreaking solution aims to deter elephants from encroaching on local communities, particularly by preventing them from invading people's farmlands.
The renowned elephant repellent, commonly known as "Chilli," is a concoction composed of garlic, ginger, chillies, and neem leaves. This innovative formula draws inspiration from Uganda and is prepared by expertly grinding the ingredients in a pestle and mortar, followed by a boiling process. To enhance its effectiveness, raw eggs and cattle dung are added to the mixture.
Chezhoe villagers gather around to learn how to make the organic elephant repellent, how the mixture works, and how animals behave. Image by Ndlelende Ncube
According to Tikobane Trust Director, Ndlelende Ncube, after the preparation process, the mixture is left to ferment for a duration of three weeks. Once fermented, it is carefully poured into small bottles equipped with holes and strategically placed along the fences that enclose the farmlands. Elephants possess an exceptional sense of smell, enabling them to detect the scent of the mixture from a distance of 100 metres.
“Since we started this project three years back, we have seen great success but the challenge is that we are working on one village in Hwange district, so this means that elephants are chased to other villages,” says Ncube.
“This repellent however, is meant to protect both wildlife and humans because villagers can now have a peace of mind sleeping at their homesteads instead of guarding their fields throughout the night, risking attacks from many other wild animals.”
A villager in Dete, Hwange district, says elephants had now become resistant and accustomed to their traditional knowledge systems of beating drums to chase the jumbos away.
“No matter what we do, these elephants now ignore us and continue eating in our fields,” laments Mande Tshuma, Dete villager. “We would throw burning logs at them but still they won’t go away.”
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Since 2016, the Tikobane Trust — which translates to ‘let us share’ — has been working mostly in the Hwange district and much recently, Lupane and Tsholotsho.
Last month ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo revealed they are in the process of establishing a relief fund to help victims of human-wildlife conflict.
Ncube acknowledges that while they have been facing challenges implementing the project in all the districts due to limited resources, the repellant is an answer to protect villagers from losing their property to wild animals.
“We have also worked with communities in Lupane whom we have taught how to prepare the elephant repellent, as well as Tsholotsho where we did a demo with this one guy,” Ncube says.
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SOJO2023, SOJO , Environmental reporting, Climate change, Human-wildlife conflicts, Matabeleland
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