Thursday, July 15, 2010

EHRA Elephant-Human Relations Aid

There are a couple of posts in my Archives EHRA 2008 regarding my time with EHRA, Elephant Human-Relations Aid.A private organisation based in Damaraland, Namibia working to  mitigate human/wildlife conflict there.From our perspective Elephants are such marvellous creatures, and we are slowly beginning to understand that they possess a very high intelligence, and an amazing social structure and awareness.Sometimes when I read about the research that is going on with these creatures,I can't help thinking it's we humans who are the dumb ones.
And that's all very well, but then we also need to look at elephants from the perspective of locals, the villagers and farmers that have contact with them every day.And in their search for water and food, in a country that, at most times of the year, is very dry and the vegetation sparse, with growing herd numbers, elephants are now moving back into areas where they have  been unknown for over a century.Shot out of their traditional roaming areas, their return brings them into conflict with  humans who have moved into these areas and whose sole income in most cases is their farms and their sheep, goats and cattle.
So village or farm water points,wells, storage tanks, and pipelines are sought out by thirsty elephants who need to drink over 40 litres a day.And for most times of the year, rivers in Namibia are just a dry, sandy riverbed.Here and there a waterhole, or water may be close enough to the surface for eles to dig a seephole.
But if  you're a local farmer,and eles are breaking down your facilities as they try to drink from your well, you will want to protect your livelihood.You've got mouths to feed.And you have no money for repairs .
But you have got an old rifle........
That's one way to solve the situation for yourself!
But EHRA work with the community to offer another, long lasting solution which solves the conflict and encourages local people to live with elephants.
Building rock wall protection around water points, at a height which still allows eles to get their trunk over and drink, but without damaging expensive facilities.Simple.Effective.
But expensive from a communities point of view.Johannes Haasbroek recognised the problem and came up with a solution.A volunteer project where the volunteer pays to fund the materials needed, and actually builds the rock wall.
Easy.But why would someone from an affluent background pay to go and build a rock wall in Namibia?
I kept asking myself that question after I signed up for the project for July 2008.And I'm still asking that 2 years later as I look forward to signing on again.Perhaps I'll find the answer this time.It's crazy but so many volunteers go back there.Or go on to other volunteer projects, either in Africa or other parts of the world.
For me at the time, it was a real desire to just get as far away from my lifestyle as I possibly could.Push out those boundaries we tend to draw closer around us as we age.Seek out a challenge.And also to answer a need to be involved with wildlife I'd felt for so long.

So for others reading this,who are thinking about a volunteer project, I can only encourage you to do it.And EHRA will be a great start.Ask me any questions you have.I'll be glad to answer.
Meantime there is a website here  to read an excellent report on EHRA and the work they do.
Enjoy !

No comments: