Bananas for elephants

Why this project was important

For thousands of years across Asia, people and elephants have lived side by side. Shrinking habitats and the spread of human settlements is forcing elephants and people to compete for the same resources. Damaged homes, ravaged crops, injury and loss of life make up a common story of human-elephant conflict. A story in which family and survival lies at the heart.

The Karbi foothills in Assam is a remote location linked by bad roads and an erratic power supply. People living here battle against the elements, grow crops to support their families and depend on the forest for fuel to warm their homes and cook. 

It is a challenging life and a habitat for the Asian elephant. The region has become a hotspot for conflict due to a lack of information about elephant movements and a lack of knowledge about ways to live peacefully and coexist alongside elephants.

Project partner: Green Guard Nature Organisation

Duration: 2018-2020

Elephant population: 200-300, increasing during the winter migration

Project goals

  • To improve elephant habitat and food availability
  • To raise awareness of wildlife and habitat protection among local communities
  • To mitigate human-elephant conflict.

What we did

Through our work, we addressed both sides of the conflict story. To curb the temptation of elephants to eat crops, we enriched their habitat by planting rice fields, bananas and fodder species preferred by elephants in place of invasive creepers and low nutrition shrubs. Salt licks were created to improve elephant nutrition. 

Community engagement was crucial to success. Local community groups and schools throughout the Karbi foothills were engaged in an awareness raising campaign to address the issue of poaching and killing of endangered species. The programme reduced the dependence on firewood through the distribution of smokeless stoves and warm blankets. To equip communities to share information about elephant movement, mobile phones were provided to select youths living in the area. 

Through the enrichment and protection of elephant habitat, discussion groups, information sharing and support of local people, we turned conflict into coexistence between human and elephant communities. 

October 2018 Project Update: Reviving the ancient bond with wildlife

2021 Project Update: The Year The Earth Changed