Adjusting to social distancing rules: updates from Myanmar

Please note: at the time of writing a military coup was occurring in Myanmar. Having contacted our in-country conservation partners we have been assured that the teams are safe and they are confident the coup will have minimal impact on conservation work.

Elephant Family is supporting a three-year project in Myanmar called H.EL.P. (which stands for Human Elephant Peace),  working to reduce human-elephant conflict which threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1000’s of people in forest communities. We partner with Grow Back for Posterity and Compass Films to run large-scale education programmes on how to live safely alongside elephants, and a programme of seasonal fencing training to protect crops which will be maintained by the farmers and villagers long beyond the length of this work.

Seasonal electric crop fences are set up by farmers around their crops for a only few months every year, to protect them from elephants. After the harvest the fences are removed to allow free passage to wild elephants.

Despite multiple setbacks due to Covid-19 regulations affecting travel and the ability to host meetings and training, the teams in Myanmar have made incredible progress over the last three months. They have refocused their efforts from larger gatherings, to training and development that can be implemented within the guidelines laid out to protect against Covid-19 and still have the most possible impact.

Training teams on how to install fencing has been held, with participants from 8 villages becoming qualified to install and use the fencing thereby allowing them to protect their crops. These training sessions are carried out in Myaing Hay Wun camp, 3 hours North of Yangon at the foothills of the West Bago Yoma mountain range with the Myanmar Elephant Emergency Response Unit (EERU) present (a department of the Government) which is essential for ensuring large-scale collaboration.

Since this first session, a second 4 day training course has been held with an additional 15 participants from a further 8 villages all passing certification. So far there have been a total of 30 participants trained who will be involved in securing 15 future fencing sites. All 15 sites are now preparing for the installation of seasonal fences to be set up for the next growing season.

These workshops will continue on a monthly basis with EERU staff also participating in these courses to be  future fence trainers themselves,  taking over from Compass Films next year in the Yangon region. This will enable H.EL.P. trainers to move to the Ayeyawady region, and EERU staff to continue training and monitoring autonomously under oversight by the H.EL.P. Team in the Yangon region.

As the training sessions continue over the coming months, Grow Back for Prosperity and Compass Films will continually adapt to the Covid-19 situation to ensure their work in Myanmar has the maximum impact. Despite recent political changes in Myanmar, GBP, CF and their H.EL.P. team is confident that the educational efforts will continue as planned.

It is updates like these from our project partners in the field working to protect people and wildlife, that have buoyed us through January and inspired us with their ongoing determination.

This work is funded by the UK Governments Darwin Initiative, Elephant Family and the US Fish and Wildlife Society as well as the Shared Earth Foundation.