Part 1 – Economically empowering women: A tool in the human-elephant coexistence toolbox
Field blog written by our international intern, Alexandra Wall
ELEPHANT CROP RAIDS AND POVERTY
Save the Elephants’ (STE) Elephants and Bees Research Center is based in Mwakoma village, one of four villages in Lower Sagalla located roughly 10km from Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Here, subsistence farming is the primary income-generating activity for households. In Mwakoma and surrounding communities, human-wildlife conflict is one of the leading factors contributing to poverty in the area; when subsistence farming defines an individual’s or family’s livelihood, crop damage by wildlife can directly affect food and economic security.
Elephants – through either trampling or feeding on crops – can easily destroy part or all of a farmer’s crops in a single night. The destruction often translates into foregone food and potential income for an entire harvesting season. This would be a significant loss for any farmer but is especially catastrophic for subsistence farmers living in poverty who do not have an alternative source of income or means of providing food for themselves.
This high dependency on farming, which is increasingly becoming less reliable due to both elephant crop-raiding and climate change, places an acute burden on women in Mwakoma who face fewer economic opportunities than men and also bear greater (unpaid) household responsibilities. Economically empowering women through diversified sources of income can benefit elephant conservation by reducing the incidence and negative impacts of crop-raiding. In turn, this may lead to a decrease in retaliatory actions taken by farmers against elephants, minimize community members’ negative perceptions of elephants, and lessen resistance towards elephant conservation initiatives.
BUILDING A WOMEN’S ENTERPRISE CENTER
is a group of women in the village who have been engaged with STE’s Human-Elephant Co-Existence Project since 2012. Recognizing the financial success of basket weaving, the women’s group aims to engage in additional sustainable micro-enterprises to further reduce dependence on income from traditional agricultural farm produce.
Elephants and Bees (E&B) will be supporting the Mlambeni women’s group in Sagala in its desire to construct a Women’s Enterprise Center (WEC) in the community. This center will serve as a space to carry out a variety of bio-enterprise activities and will also contain a shop to sell the products as well as a meeting hall for training and workshops. Aside from financial returns, a supportive community center also provides a safe space for women to socialize and learn from one another. We estimate the first phase of the Women’s Enterprise Center will cost US$40,000 to construct using all local labour from the community and materials sources locally within 15 minutes drive of the village to keep our carbon emissions as low as possible.
We would be delighted if you would like to support our project! Donations for the construction of the Women’s Enterprise Center can be made through www.elephantsandbees.com or contact Dr. Lucy King, head of STE’s Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program, at email@example.com for more information.
Photo: Our team has been visiting other Women’s enterprise groups in Taita-Taveta to gain insight into what makes a great center and what other activities we can work with to boost the women in our community with new income generating ideas that are environmentally friendly.