Chilli repellent help increase harvest in Zimbabwe

– The chilli repellent has reduced human – wildlife conflict when both animals and humans would be fighting for food, Godfrey Mpofu a beneficiary revealed.

John Cassim

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Chilli fences have brought some relief to Godfrey Mpofu aged 57, who for the first time this year, has harvested enough to take him through, to the next planting season.

Mpofu lives with his family of seven, in Luvangwe village, Matetsi which is 675 kilometers, South West of the capital Harare.

This is a wildlife zone and is just 40 kilometers away from the Victoria Falls town.

Wildlife in Matetsi is known for attracting tourists especially hunters but on the flip side the animals were like a curse to the local villagers.

Every year, these villagers could not harvest meaningfully, owing to increased elephant raids on their fields.

“In the past, for me to harvest I would rely on physically chasing away the elephants, I used to risk my life so much but for a few grains to sustain my family. 

The human – wildlife conflict is real in my village as both the animals and humans would be fighting for survival,” Mpofu told Conservezim.

Life has changed today following some intervention by the Tikobane Trust led by Ndlelende Ncube ahead of the 2022 – 2023 farming season.

Tikobane Trust, which is based in Dete, Hwange, partnered with villagers in Luvangwe village to train them on the use of chilli elephant repellents.

“This was a turning point for me and fellow villagers as we reduced the elephant raids and increased our crop yield,” Mpofu added.

– chilli repellent concoction 

What started as a trial in Ziwalindi village, Dete and some surrounding areas adjacent to Hwange National Park in 2020, has now spread thereby reducing the human – wildlife conflict.

“The smelly concoction is a combination of lots of herbs, chilli, ginger, eggs and elephant dung, as the main ingredients. The strong smell is produced after three weeks of fermentation.

After that, elephants can smell the chilli repellent from afar and would dare not come closer to the fence,” Ndlelende Ncube said.

The chilli concoction was introduced to the Hwange area by Wild Aid in partnership with Tikobane Trust.

WildAid is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. 

In that year farmers like Flora Mangwana from Dingani village in the Dete region,  said the concoction successfully worked for her.

Over many years, elephant attacks in the region affected the production of maize, which is a diet staple in Zimbabwe.

– origin of the chilli repellent

The nonlethal concoction was invented by farmers in northern Uganda after years of elephant attacks on farms during harvest season.

While chilli has been used by farmers in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Uganda as an elephant repellent since 1997, its unsustainability forced villagers and agriculture experts to explore alternatives.

However this concoction has proved to be the magic hence its use is spreading across the wildlife zones in Zimbabwe.

WildAid representatives in East Africa, said the new concoction, invented by locals in northern Uganda in 2018, has succeeded in keeping elephants away from the fields.

While various chilli deterrents had been developed, they proved too costly or the elephants quickly outsmarted them.

Some of the ingredients need money, hence Wild Aid also trained local villagers to start planting chilli, ginger, garlic, and other herbs in their gardens.

While there is abundant food in the national parks for wildlife, the elephants continue to rampage for a variety of reasons.

“Among these reasons are pull factors such as the need for water, minerals, food, and to mix the gene pools. Also push factors like increased competition for resources between animals and humans, and infrastructure development in elephant habitats,” a Wild Aid representative Maz Robertson, said some time ago.

“The fact that we have expanded this project to Dete, Jabulisa, Gandangula village in Lupane, Tsholotsho and Matetsi is a sign that the chilli repellent is working and changing lives,” Ndelende said.

While chilli concoctions are working elsewhere, in Mbire far north of the country, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), with the support of the European Union (EU), is supporting chilli growers.

Growing chilli around maize farms in this region is also proving helpful. 

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