Rural Africans often face problems trying to co-exist with wildlife. Baboons steal food. Elephants stampede through their crops. And the animals are also under stress, as their habitat is lost to human settlement.
But help is at hand. The Conflict Mitigation Tool Kit, created by the government of Zimbabwe and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), offers some solutions to the competition for land and food between people and their forest neighbors.
The FAO’s Forestry and Wildlife Officer, Rene Czudek, in Harare, Zimbabwe, explained how the kit works. “We have done quite some work on human wildlife conflict in Africa but mostly they were like paper studies, guidelines that never reached the real clients in the field. So this Tool Kit should allow us to approach the community and discuss with them the best options to prevent or mitigate human-wildlife conflict in rural Africa.”
The kit contains useful information in the form of colorful tips that often come across as funny but that can help with serious problems.
“We try to put together all possible methods to prevent or mitigate human-wildlife conflict,” Czudek said. “Some of them are quite funny and I think our colleagues in the communication department in Rome [used humor] to attract attention…. But the main aim is to propose methods that are cost effective and could work in rural conditions in Africa.”
In one example, he explained how people can protect their crops and themselves from elephants.
“For an elephant raiding crops, we have different kinds of tools and one of them is to make chili. You just grow chili, then you can mix it with some elephant dung, then you light it with charcoal and then this burning brick will just smell bad for the elephants. Since they don’t like chili pepper they will avoid going to the field,” said Czudek.
The kit provides as many tools as possible, he said, because after a while the animals get used to the first method and it loses effectiveness.
“In our tool kit,” he said, “we stress the need to do proper land use planning. So, if you put your crops on an elephant corridor, there is a big chance it will be raided.”
The FAO says where humans and wild animals share the same spaces, danger cannot be totally eliminated. For instance, Czudek pointed to the danger facing people living in the same areas as crocodiles.
In Mozambique and Zimbabwe, he said, people do not take the proper precautions in bathing, washing clothes and collecting water.
“So there is this need to be aware, he said, "that there is a risk and you can put crocodile fencing around some areas where the people can go for collecting water, washing clothes, etc.”
For baboons, who steal food, the Tool Kit suggests a live snake sandwich – hollowing out the center of a loaf of bread and putting a snake in it. “It’s quite a drastic method, but baboons have a very good memory. When they experience something like this, they don’t repeat it,” said Czudek. He added that the kit does offer other ways to deal with baboons.
The goal of the Tool Kit is harmonious co-habitation, Czudek said, protecting both humans and wildlife. He added that since “wildlife can be a valuable asset to humans,” human-wildlife conflict may one day become a human-wildlife alliance.