Mitigating human-elephants conflicts in South-Western Burkina Faso

10 July 2008 | News story

Mitigating human-elephants conflicts in South-Western Burkina Faso

What is the best way of mitigating human-elephants conflicts in South-Western Burkina Faso? According to an IUCN expert, a good solution would be to establish a special Human-Elephant Committee in the region. Mr. Lamine Sebogo, a programme Officer for the African Elephant Specialist Group in West Africa, said that he has come to that conclusion together with local community leaders, during his fact-finding mission in the area. In the course of his mission from 14 to 16 May 2008, Mr. Sebogo held meetings with technical staffs and community leaders in Banfora and Tiefora, including regional and provincial Directors of the Environment and members of Dozo, the Hunters’ Association. 

The proposed special Committee would devise and implement a new fundraising strategy to carry out damage control, conflict management and the relocation of the elephants into new grazing areas. IUCN has been invited to help with fundraising efforts and to be part of the Committee.

It all started a few weeks ago, when a herd of 100 to 150 elephants was spotted roaming around the Tiefora district. Tiefora is about 20 km away from Banfora, the Capital city of the Comoé Province in South-East Burkina Faso. Elephants are known to make occasional incursions into human settlements in the region but, this time, the media and the locals were concerned because the pachyderms were, reportedly, causing significant damages.

Elephants usually live in the natural forests neighbouring human settlements. Of the nine districts in the Comoé province (South-Eastern Burkina Faso), five have been affected by elephant-caused damages: Tiefora, Niangoloko, Banfora, Soubakagnédougou and Bérégadougou, with Tiefora being the most affected. Damages concern mainly tree plantations, agriculture products and farm animals.

Communities recognize the economic value of the elephants as a touristic attraction, but they treasure their survival first. For farmers, material damages always come with social and psychological disturbances on local communities. Farmers leave with the constant fear of seeing their sources of food and income destroyed by the big pachyderms. In 2007, some farmers lost their entire harvests and were forced to move to Côte d’Ivoire to work on the plantations, to earn their living. This time, community leaders have recommended that the elephants be removed from their villages or they could resort to killing some of them.

Therefore, local authorities and the IUCN specialist have advised that it would be good to set up a Committee to coordinate a study on the big mammals’ numbers, their groups and their movements in the areas of concern. The said study should also decide on the feasibility of building migration corridors to shield the elephants from men’s fields and herds, when in the process of relocating them into nearby protected areas. There are 14 classified forests in the region. The nearest forest, Boulon Koflande, is located 40 km away from Tiefora. Local research centres and the University of Bobo Dioulasso could be called in for assistance.

Another task for the Committee will be to capacity build farmers on new ways of containing and chasing away the elephants from their areas. To date, farmers still use traditional methods like fire, noises and other deterrent methods. Four Wildlife Officers from Burkina Faso trained in Zambia in 2007 have been identified to assist in providing training to farmers.

Damage control goes a long way into soothing farmers’ worries. It involves assessing the extent of the damages caused by the elephants and ensuring that aggrieved farmers are paid back. An assessment of elephant damages conducted between June 2007 and May 2008 has shown that 94 people have been affected, 121ha of crops destroyed and 68 farm animals killed by the elephants. The total damage is estimated at 2 472 500 CFA (€3769.30).

For more information:
Lamine Sebogo: lamine.sebogo@iucn.org