Oct 19, 2020

GlobalGiving Report 10/19/2020

HDDeS representative discussing about the project
HDDeS representative discussing about the project

Incense sticks and supplementary crops

As we mentioned in our last update, the Coexistence Project has resumed working on understanding how elephants and people share land outside outside protected areas, and  finding ways to reduce human-elephant conflict within the region. We hope to get through the rest of the year without interruption due to the pandemic!

The first critical project at this time is testing whether a specially formulated incense stick is capable of repelling elephants from crops. With the 2nd cropping season upon us, this is our second and only chance to test the sticks this year. Our enterprise partner, HDDES, has committed to a fresh batch of incense to try out. The cameras have been deployed on all the fields, and now we wait to see the results!

Our other major initiative is to start testing elephant-resistant crop species that can supplement farmers’ incomes. About 1500 families, mostly farmers, live on a household income of USD 100 – 120 per month. Crop raids create intense hardship and this in return forces both parties to pay a heavy price. But in order for farmers to grow something other than a food crop, they need to know there is a buyer for it. Our project partners, HDDeS Pvt Ltd, have agreed to play a role again. They are one of the largest exporters of spices, essences and floral extracts in Sri Lanka.

Earlier this year, Trunks & Leaves initiated discussions with HDDeS Pvt Ltd to find out if they are in need for any specific plant/extract that we could encourage the farmers to grow in their unused land, as an alternate source of income. Our criterion was that these alternate crops be “elephant resistant” to some extent. Upon further discussions and research, Trunks & Leaves and HDDes Pvt Ltd, identified that crops such as lemongrass and citronella are not harmed by elephants and are in demand all around the world.

We’ve identified a few prospective communities who are interested in participating in a small pilot trial, and earlier this month we arranged on-location meetings between the farmers, our enterprise partner HDDES and government representatives. Our next steps will be to:

  • Identify a group of 25 willing farmers.
  • Educate and explain our aim and project details (Trunks & Leaves have established certain goodwill over the years).
  • Facilitate communication, transparency and agreements between all parties.
  • Monitor and evaluating the progress and effectiveness of this new endeavor.

HDDES has agreed to:

  • Arrange 100 lemongrass/ citronella saplings to begin this project.
  • Liaise with relevant government agencies.
  • Agree to purchase the extracted lemongrass/citronella oil at a certain price benefitting the farmers in the area.

 This small pilot will help us work out the logistics, economics and other practical details so that we can hopefully engage more communities on a larger scale next year. We’re excited to get started and hope you’ll keep following our progress as we go.

Meeting the farmers
Meeting the farmers
discussion with another set of farmers
discussion with another set of farmers

Links:

Jun 22, 2020

Impact of COVID19 on Elephant Incense Project - June 2020 Update

Banana crops are a tasty snack for elephants.
Banana crops are a tasty snack for elephants.

We hope you have not been adversely impacted by the pandemic that has affected as all over the past few months.

As we mentioned in our last update, Trunks & Leaves embarked on a new journey, commencing our next phase of work with the communities. Crop raids are ever more frequent in the Udawalawe region, where we have been operating all this while, especially with the scarcity of food for the elephants. We partnered with HDDeS Pvt. Ltd, the largest exporters of spices, essences and floral extracts, to experimentally try out an novel approach to deterring elephants from crops. Through their research, they had developed a special type of incense stick that were claimed to emit an odor that repels elephants. If successful, this project would be the first step we take to reducing human-elephant conflict.

About 1500 families, mostly farmers, live on a household income of USD 100 – 120 per month. Crop raids create intense hardship and this in return forces both parties to pay a heavy price. Hence, Trunks & Leaves, also wanted to create an alternate source of income, something that guarantees a steady revenue stream for the farmers. Our partnership with HDDes Pvt. Ltd is expected to facilitate this as well. While we tested the incense stick with the communities we have worked and established a relationship with, HDDes Pvt Ltd, would provide feedback on potential plants that the farmers can grow as an alternate crop for extra revenue.

Testing Begins

 After some careful planning, and receiving incense sticks donated by HDDes Pvt. Ltd, it was time to begin! We decided to test these products in 10 of the farms in the Udawalawe corridor region, where we worked with communities on our Pre-school project. We would use camera traps in addition to the farmers’ own observations to document whether the sticks were working, over a one-month period. 

Our field team worked tirelessly, to set up these cameras, taking into account the angles in which we can capture elephants and monitor the effectiveness of the incense sticks. Over the course of we began trials, starting with a two-week "baseline" period where we recorded how active elephants were on each property before testing the sticks. In March we had farmers light their supply of sticks every other day and record whether elephants appeared at all, and whether there was any damage to their fields. March and April were to be the all-important trial months, when farmers would actively be growing crops and harvesting following the rains. Unfortunately, we had a set-back due to the COVID19 global pandemic.

Impact of COVID19

There were two major impacts due to the coronavirus:

1)      Sri Lanka went on complete lockdown, along with other countries in the world. The international airport was shut down, travel within the country and gatherings were disallowed. Curfews were imposed, preventing the field team from leaving their homes for part of March, all of April, and most of May. As a result we had to suspend all fieldwork, including not only the incense trials but also all other camera trap monitoring.

2)      The restrictions on movement also prevented some farmers from cultivating at all. Without farmers cultivating, there is little chance of crop raids and therefore no point in testing the effectiveness of the incense sticks. Even though curfews have been lifted as of June, we've had to shift our timeline for this reason. The next harvest begins roughly around September, so if the situation returns to normal we hope to re-start the experiment prior to that time.


Hopefully, once the world recovers from COVID-19, the Coexistence Project can resume trials and monitoring.

All of us at Trunks & Leaves wish you good health and safety.

Watch huts are used to guard against wildlife.
Watch huts are used to guard against wildlife.
Farmers like Jayasena can lose their whole harvest
Farmers like Jayasena can lose their whole harvest

Links:

Feb 24, 2020

From Preschools to Paddyfields - What's New for 2020

The new merry-go-round at Chuti Tharu preschool.
The new merry-go-round at Chuti Tharu preschool.

From Preschools to Paddyfields - What's New for 2020

The Coexistence Project:  Pre-School Program

As we reported in our last update, Trunks & Leaves were able to support 12 pre-schools around the Udawalawe area by the end of 2019. This brought our pre-school program to a close, for now. Our goal is to gradually encircle protected areas with community-based conservational initiatives and create a conflict free livelihood for the farmers. Building trust with the community through the funding of these pre-schools has been the most important aspect of this program. The funding raised in 2019 was used for:

  • Cupboards
  • Desks and chairs
  • Stationery /Painting materials
  • Educational supplies
  • Playground equipment
  • Medical supplies
  • Water supply and filtration systems
  • Technological supplies
  • Construction of lavatory
  • Electricity and fittings
  • Gates & fences

The total support provided to the schools was $5985 USD, partially raised through GlobalGiving. A complete impact report will be available shortly on trunksnleaves.org/reports. In the meantime a brief summary is attached to this report.

 

Next Steps: Can Incense Sticks Help Protect Crops?

This year, 2020, we are excited to commence the next phase of our work with these same communities that directly tackles possible ways to reducing human-elephant conflict. In general, there are complementary approaches:

1)     Protecting farmers crops while they are growing. This is what most conservation initiatives try to do. One of the challenges is that elephants are quite smart, and soon learn their way around different types of barriers and repellents.

2)     Find alternative crops that can supplement farmers' incomes so that people and elephants are not at odds. This is something that has not been extensively tried, but seems to us a critical piece of the puzzle.

We are pleased to partner with HDDeS Pvt Ltd, one of the largest exporters of spices, essences and floral extracts in Sri Lanka. Under their Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, they independently have developed a special type of incense stick that they believe acts as a repellent for elephants. T&L has agreed to experimentally test the incense sticks among the farming communities we have come to know. If successful, this innovation could help farmers reduce the damage from elephants, and lessen the economic burden they face. In return, HDDeS is providing valuable feedback concerning the types of plants that could potentially be grown in the region, with a good market value in their industry. We are excited to see what is discovered on both fronts!

                We hope you will continue to support our efforts to help people and elephants coexist.

  • Follow us on Social Media: @trunksnleaves on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Find photos, videos and more stories under #CoexistenceProject, #LivingWithElephants and #ElephantOptimism
Inside the new classroom of Samadhi preschool.
Inside the new classroom of Samadhi preschool.
Farming next to the near invisible electric fence.
Farming next to the near invisible electric fence.
Farmers whom T&L will be working with.
Farmers whom T&L will be working with.

Links:


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