2 methods helping with living in harmony with elephants

Field Report by Intern Ephie Lumumba, Elephants and Bees Project 

Elephants are known crop raiders, so understanding the timing of the raid and the choice of crops through tracking and frequent monitoring is crucial in developing targeted elephant monitoring and effective mitigation strategies. Different local communities coexist with elephants in different methods depending on governmental support and other stakeholder’s capacity.

Communities living in areas prone to human elephant conflict try to deploy strategies to help them live in harmony with these terrestrial giants. To live in harmony with elephants is not easy especially in farming areas so our E&B team help deploy a combination of deterrent methods to effectively keep elephants off their farms. Simple tools such as noise deterrent (banging iron sheet, beating drums, yelling and whistling) and light deterrent (use of torch and fire) are used to scare away the elephants from entering the farm. Elephants are smart and often learn that most of these methods do not cause harm so farmers have to constantly invent new methods to deal with the effects caused by the elephants.

A fence knocked down by a bull elephant. Photo: Jasper Scofield

Maize fed on and destroyed by elephants. Photo. Ephie Lumumba


To harmoniously coexist with any animal one has to learn the behavior and adaptation of the animal. At our Elephants and Bees Project, this is implemented through elephant tracking and crop assessment to assess routes followed by elephants and crops foraged on by elephants. This helps to determine the type of deterrent method and the farms where the deterrent will be fitted. From continuous tracking and assessment, two interesting but simple methods have been implemented.


Maize is the staple food in Kenya and it is grown almost over the entire country. Most farmers do mixed farming to increase production and harvest variety of crops to supplement their nutritional requirements. In Sagalla, subsistence farming is common and farmers grow a variety of crops (maize, green grams, beans, cassava, cow peas and pigeon peas). This would have supplemented their nutritional needs and a little money for other use were it not for crop raiding elephants in the village.

By encouraging the farmers to shift from palatable crops to non-palatable crops this will increase their chances of earning additional income from farming. Sunflower and chilies are two crops that are not foraged on by elephants and fetch a good amount of money in the market.

Sunflowers take 2-3 months to mature and require little rain and the Sunflower seeds can be pressed to extract sunflower oil. The cake after pressing is also used as livestock feeds. The seeds can be mixed with other feed to make chicken feeds. The sunflower plant provides forage for most insects and birds and this would mean increase in bee hive occupation for Sagalla bee hive fences. The seeds can be fried and eaten as nuts.


Black seeded sunflowers, grown at Tabitha’s farm. Photo: Jasper Scofield


Chilies take about two months to mature and can be  harvested all year round. These non-palatable crops can be grown at the edge of the farm as buffer zone to deter elephants. This method is good except for the capability of elephants to smell maize and other crops thereby trampling on the sunflower and chilli as they move towards the maize. Some farmers completely shift to growing non palatable crops in the entire farm.


Our Elephants and Bees team have also started to trial the ‘Smelly elephant repellent’ method in Sagalla, in partnership with our friends at WildAid Africa. This method was developed in Northern Uganda, and has since been supported and implemented by WildAid Africa. We learnt of this innovative method in 2019 when our team went to visit Murchison Falls, Uganda.

This is a brew made from a combination of ingredients that are cheaply available to farmers and which farmers can grow in their farms. The whole process of preparation requires patience and keenness. The ingredients are: Chilly, ginger, garlic, neem leaves, eggs, cow dung/elephant dung, and cooking oil. Water is boiled and as it approaches the boiling point, chillies are added and stirred. Constant stirring continues until the chillies start boiling then pounded garlic, pounded ginger and pounded neem leaves are added. The mixture is let to boil for a few minutes and later left to cool down. On a different container, cow dung/ elephant dung is mixed with eggs and later transferred to the cooled mixture. Cooking oil is added to the cooled mixture and the content is transferred to an air tight container. The concoction is left to brew for at least four weeks.

Preparing plastic bottles by making holes, to allow to smell to diffuse out. Photos: Alfie Simcad

The Smelly elephant repellant can be sprayed on crops or put up in bottles around the fence of a farm.

Hanging up the ready brewed smelly repellent around the farm. Photos: Alfie Simcad

Human Elephant Conflict is a major problem and these are just a few examples of simple and cheap solutions that can be implemented by farmers to help coexist better with elephants.



The views, opinions and position expressed in this article belong solely to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Save the Elephants

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