Fourth Beehive Fence built in Mwambiti Village
Blog by Augustine Musyoka, Project Officer at Elephants and Bees Research Center
My adventure all started in October 2014 when I first set my foot in the Elephants and Bees Research Center in Mwakoma Village, Voi Sub County. My dream to help in conservation and in particular, to help conserve one of the big five ‘Loxodanta Africana’ came true. Immediately I felt at home due to the wonderful people I met already working there including my fellow interns from other continents. After few weeks of learning various activities that were the backbone of the project, I began my adventure by conducting a project to explore the causes and solutions to human-elephant conflict in Mwambiti village. These initial project activities that I learned about included setting camera traps, construction and repairs of beehive fences, monitoring and record keeping, honey harvesting and processing, wax making, candles and lip balm.
Elephants in Kenya are not confined to National Parks and Reserves and they are not only being squeezed into smaller areas, but farmers’ also plant crops that elephants like to eat. As a result elephants frequently raids and destroy crops, and can injure and kill humans in the process.
With the assistance of Dr Lucy King, we came up with a detailed questionnaires to be used in acquiring information both from the neighbouring community of Mwambiti and the Kenya Wildlife Service officers in Tsavo East National Park because the park is adjacent to the community farmlands. To achieve my goal, participatory rural appraisal methodology had to be used because it enables farmers to analyze their own situation and to develop common solutions on matters regarding natural resource management and agriculture at the village level.
On 20th October 2014, a meeting was held which comprised of the village assistant chief, village elder, community members and Elephants and Bees Research Center team led by Dr Lucy King. In this meeting much was discussed and at the end we were given permission to interview anyone in the community regarding human-elephant conflict. It took us 2 months to interview both the community members and KWS staff in Tsavo East N.P. At the end of the survey we realized that the small farmers were desperately poor and already economically and nutritionally vulnerable forced by circumstances to encroach into elephant habitat. Finally, as the most appropriate solution to this conflict, we came up with a plan to start the construction of beehive fences in farms that were highly affected by elephant raid during the planting season. These were typically farms at the forefront of the community, neighbouring the National Park.
According to a pilot study conducted in Samburu, Northern Kenya (King et. al. 2011), farms with beehive fences experienced fewer raids and consequently had higher productivity compared with nearby control farms of similar status and size. Socioeconomic indicators suggest that not only was the concept of a beehive fence popular and desired by the community but also that it can pay for its construction costs through the sale of honey and bee products.
The construction of the new beehive fence project in Mwambiti village commenced on 25th May 2015 with 6 farms selected by both the community and along side results from my conflict study. The new fence owners proposed included Nashon Mwagharo, Blistone Mwawasi, Ileli Daud, Ngwale Mwasi, Robinson Mbogoya and Isaack Mwavula. So far I have managed to lead the construction of the first four beehive fences.
There is nothing so wonderful like putting a smile to a poor farmer who has suffered crop raids for years. I would like to thank Save the Elephants organization for supporting the Elephant and Bees Research Center and our beehive donors for the new fence namely Disney, all The Scientific and Medical Network members (SMN), Lucy Slater, Saint Ronan’s School, Naiya Raja, Steve Mandel and Tess Morrison.