Strengthening Human-Elephant Coexistence, Ghana

Conservation Alliance International (CA) aims to improve wildlife and habitat management, and create wealthier healthier communities for local people and visitors. Its purpose is to empower communities in Africa to lead in biodiversity conservation and create opportunities for economic growth.

Kakum Conservation Area (KCA), covering 375,000ha, remains one of the West Africa’s Upper Guinean Forest biodiversity hotspots. The critically endangered African Forest Elephant here is vital for habitat regeneration and a major tourist attraction alongside a canopy walkway which enhances the sight-seeing of the elephants. However, ongoing rapid decline in the elephant population is caused by sustained Human-Elephant conflict due to habitat loss through poor agricultural practices and continued expansion of farms into the conservation area. The project will educate 5,000 people in 10 fringe communities about the value of elephants to the KCA ecosystem. Better agricultural practices/anti-crop raiding techniques including creating chilli pepper fences, will be encouraged amongst 500 farmers to reduce Human-Elephant Conflict. 20ha of degraded habitats will be restored by planting 11,000 trees (including 10ha of enrichment planting) improving the ecological health of the landscape and enhancing the experience of tourists. Buffer zones severely impacted by elephants will be planted with native species that are non-target for elephants to improve productive and economic capacity of farms.

The Update

The project started with meetings of key stakeholders in the Kakum Conservation Area (KCA), including traditional and government leaders of communities, KCA fringe farmers, elephant experts, park managers, community groups [e.g. Community Resource Management Areas(CREMAs)], National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), and Ghana Tourism Authority; bringing together over 30 representatives to introduce the project, outline the project’s activities, its implementation plan, and the role of stakeholders in the project.

Following this, 10 fringe communities of the KCA were selected and participated in elephant conservation education. About 515 farmers from these 10 communities were also trained in good agricultural practices (GAPs) which has resulted in 85% of trained farmers now leaving a 6-meter buffer as prescribed by park managers. The remaining 15% have also agreed to do this after the end of the season harvest.

Crop raid prevention techniques have been a great success with chilli pepper and bell fencing set up on 10 demonstration sites. Since their initial set up in November 2022, there have been no raids by elephants recorded. This has resulted in farmers being keen to maintain the fence – which requires re-application every 8-10 months – and has also had the added benefit of incentivising other farmers to establish their own chilli pepper fences.

Habitat restoration efforts have resulted in 25.5 hectares of degraded habitat being planted with native species. The endemic species selected possess characteristics that are unattractive to elephants, making them less susceptible to damage. Following completion of this project, monitoring has revealed farmers to have a sustained interest in the need to conserve and protect elephant species, habitats, and safe anti-raid techniques such as bells and chilli pepper fencing. Consequently, those farmers who participated in the project’s education and training initiatives have been instrumental in disseminating knowledge about the importance of anti-raid measures to their peers, as well as assisting them in establishing their own chilli pepper fences.

With thanks to EOCA member deuter for their generous contribution to this project following fundraising from Green Friday 2022.