Beehive Fences - Pilot Project

An overview of the Kamungi Beehive Fence pilot project - March 2017

Dr Lucy King with Kamungi Community members and Tsavo Trust in 2017

In collaboration with Dr King and her renowned Elephants and Bees Project, Tsavo Trust have implemented three pilot beehive fence projects based on the highest results-oriented models for construction and monitoring within the Kamungi Conservancy.

Each farm is located quite some distance apart and all agreed they would be ideal candidates. The farmers agreed to section off one acre of each farm to construct three pilot beehive fence trial sites with the guidance of Lucy and her expert team.

  • Farm 1: located near Tsavo Trust HQ and although is not directly on the border of the NP it is on what is described as the ‘main highway’ due to a large waterhole nearby which has been frequented by wild animals from the park for decades. This year, the owner of the farm has not bothered to grow any crops since the likelihood that they will be destroyed by elephants is very high.
  • Farm 2: located some distance from the NP, however it is interesting as the elephants who like to crop-raid in the area do so during the day and are not deterred by humans even when they throw stones, bang pots or try a various assortment of other tactics to push them away. These elephants are at high risk of being injured or killed by villagers and visa-versa. 
  • Farm 3: sits on the boundary of the NP and is considered one of the worst hit. Tsavo Trust are the largest employers of the community and has good relationships with all the farmers; this farmer is particularly active and fantastic to engage with – he is likely to make the most out of the opportunity.

Workplan/Timeline

Kamungi farmers and Lucy King construct the Beehive FencesThe aim was to have the three beehive fences constructed in time for the April 2017 rainy season when the next crops will be planted. Once funding became available, the first step was to order the required amount of beehives. We recommended 15 beehives per farm, which took around three weeks for the 45 hives to be constructed. In the meantime, the community was mobilized to start collecting the required amount of posts to construct the beehive fences. Around 60, 9ft posts are required for each 1-acre fence to hang 15 beehives and the 15 ‘dummy’ hives that are hung between each hive. The posts are made from Commiphora trees, which grow in abundance in the area. The trees once cut and allowed to rest easily regrow (once planted) into new trees providing shade and protection over the beehives. This was also the time to purchase and gather all the tools required to construct fences and prepare the land.

Once all the equipment was in place, Dr. Lucy King visited along with her professional team to train and assist the farmers in the construction of their fences. They spent two days working on one of the three farms before handing over to the farmers to complete the other two. It then took less than three weeks to complete the training and build fences on all three farms. A further week was spent installing the gutters and rainwater collection systems for each trial farm. In summary, from the time when funding became available to the time that fences and rainwater catchments were in place, was approximately two months. Additionally, Project Leaders Lucy King and Vanessa Moller organized a two-day training session at the end of January 2017. Lucy King and three team members constructed a 60m line of beehive fencing on farm to demonstrate as an example to the community, and to keep the momentum and enthusiasm for the project alive whilst we await funding.

Farmers plant in March/April, and as expected, bees occupued some of the hives straight away, however, and realistically it will be the next rainy season in 2018 when the production of honey can really kick in – though it is likely that small amounts could be harvested before then if the occupation is more than expected. Over this first season, we will have ‘Elephant Raid’ data sheets, allowing us to collect data for success indicators (Number of elephants deterred by the fences or number of elephants raiding next door control plots). We will also be collecting information on hive occupations. Part of the donor funding covers the running costs our Community Officer (Joseph) to keep up with this information, gather the data and also to report and assist on any maintenance and problems (damage to hives etc.). He will be extremely busy during the height of the crop raiding season, when the elephants are most persistent, it will involve mapping of footprints, repairing damaged fences if an elephant has indeed broken through as well monitoring the farmers and gauging how well they manage the fences themselves. The water catchment system that will be provided at each farm will have collected water to provide to the bees through the dry spell. The timetable is - November 2017, when the next short rains come, all the hives should start to get occupied for the big long season, which will run into early 2018.

Going Forward

This time next year (February/March 2018), providing the community are happy with the concept, (we predict a high number of homesteads wishing to sign up) Tsavo Trust would like to expand the project and help to provide further farms, which are heavily effect by Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). During a recent survey we conducted on 70 homesteads in the area, 90% of the families reported HEC incidences since the New Year, the other 10% were not effected as they had not planted any crops. The majority of crops, planted during the last rains (November – December 2016) have been destroyed. After conducting many interviews and talking with the community, it is crystal clear that even just 1 Acre of protected land will enhance vital production for these families, more so than 10 acres being cultivated and the entire lot being decimated by elephants.

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