Red hot solution to marauding elephant crop threat
Chili pepper cloth used to keep elephants off farms in Ghana
17 December 2004, Rome - Chili pepper cloth has proved an effective and cost-efficient measure to deter elephants living in the Kakum National Park in Ghana from crop-raiding surrounding farms.
As part of an FAO and Conservation International project, the government of Ghana is working to ease clashes between elephants from the partk and the farmers who live around it.
The farmers grow crops for their own consumption and sale and depend on them for their livelihoods, but the crops also attract hungry elephants.
"A technique as simple as hanging chili pepper cloth around the farms has been tested and proven successful," said Peter Lowe, FAO forest conservation officer.
"The farmers have suffered severe damages from elephant crop-raiding in the past. Through the project their food security has improved while they continue to coexist with the elephants," said Lowe.
Wildlife in conflict with farmers
The Kakum National Park in central Ghana is home to isolated populations of several globally endangered species, including the forest elephant. Some 250 to 300 elephants live in the park, which has significant potential for eco-tourism development.
Around the park, within a five kilometre radius, about 40 communities with 600 households live by farming. Because the farms are on land that once used to be part of the elephants' natural habitat, crops planted on the edges of the park attract elephants that stray outside the park boundaries.
Elephant crop-raiding is especially severe just before harvest time, and crops can be devastated in a single night. The main food crops affected are maize, cassava, cocoyam, plantain, yam and sugar cane.
The crop losses have made the villagers hostile toward the elephants and to the idea of protecting the national park. Some have resorted to killing the elephants illegally, putting at risk the wildlife populations in the conservation area.
Chili pepper cloth
To protect the elephants from poaching and the farmers from crop-raiding, FAO and Conservation International have introduced the farmers to the chili pepper cloth as a cost-efficient anti-crop-raiding technique.
The cloths are impregnated either by smearing them with grease that has been mixed with chili pepper powder or soaking them in oil mixed with chili powder. They are then hung on a wire around the farms. Because elephants have a highly developed sense of smell and dislike the chili, simply hanging the cloths around the farms has proved effective in deterring them from entering the farms.
"It is a simple and cost-efficient method that many farmers in this area are now eager to take up," said Yaw Osei-Owusi, of Conservation International, who is the National Project Director responsible for implementing field activities.
Invented in Zimbabwe, the technique is cheaper than installing and maintaining electric fences and easier and quicker than traditional methods such as burning fires and sounding drums.
Information Officer, FAO
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