Traveling for a change is more than exploring new places and gaining new perspectives. Meaningful travel is a way to give back to local communities while embarking on a personal adventure, and Greenheart Travel is grateful to all our overseas partners working to improve their communities through important volunteer projects.
To show our gratitude in this season of giving, Greenheart Travel will make a charitable donation to one of our non-profit partners and we want you to be a part of selecting who will receive the award.
Today, we are previewing the last of our three volunteer projects in the running to receive Greenheart Travel’s “Give Back” Award. Read on to learn more about how this project is making a positive impact on the local community and how this award could be used if given to our Sri Lanka Elephant Conservation project.
Greenheart Travel’s volunteer project in Sri Lanka works directly with the human-elephant conflict in the county to try and alleviate one of the leading threats to the local elephant population. This conflict is an ongoing struggle with Sri Lankan farmers encroaching on elephants’ territory and in return, elephants destroying farmers’ livelihoods.
As the Sri Lankan farmers expand their fields, they compete with wild elephants for land. To defend their farms, a majority of farmers are using barbed wire or electric fences as a “deterrent,” but this has proven largely ineffective due to elephants’ size and strength. Elephants regularly destroy farmers’ crops in search of food.
By lessening the distance between elephant herds and farming communities, close encounters with elephants are a regular occurrence. Each year, between 50 and 80 people and between 150 and 200 elephants are killed due to the struggle in living in such close quarters.
The Elephant Conservation project is committed to finding practical solutions to this conflict using a multi-faceted approach. By focusing on creating sustainable livelihoods for farmers, analyzing land use and minimizing environmental damage, the project hopes to create a peaceful co-existence for farmers and elephants in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
Through years of research, this project has determined where regular elephant herds travel and a keen understanding of the elephants’ diet. While learning about the eating habits of elephants might not sound important, it was during this research that volunteers and field staff discovered that elephants have a very adverse reaction to the taste and smell of citrus.
As a result of this finding, local staff decided to experiment with planting citrus groves around farms to see if these orange trees would deter elephants from trespassing onto the land. It was a success.
By creating a natural barrier, this volunteer project has developed a sustainable solution to elephant and human encroachment. Local staff members and volunteers are teaching and training farmers about citrus plants, and helping to plant a barrier of citrus trees around rice crops. Elephants have avoided the fields and farmers have been provided with an additional source of income from the sale of their harvested oranges.
The trees take several years to bear fruit, so we are only now seeing the full effects of this initiative. But since launching the co-operative Project Orange Elephant, farmers with citrus barriers report minimal destruction or violent encounters from elephants. Farmers with orange grove barriers are also making nearly $500 extra for the sales of their citrus, which in a community where average annual income was assessed at $250, is a large growth in annual income.
So far, this project has been successfully implemented to two communities in Sri Lanka. Because of its largely successful results, Greenheart Travel’s donation would go toward the continued expansion of these citrus groves.
This donation would cover the cost of nearly 30 farms to get a citrus barrier, making a huge impact on the local economy, elephant conservation and sustainable development.
Staff members at the Sri Lanka Elephant Conservation project, along with the help of our amazing volunteers, are working tirelessly to ease the strain of this elephant-human conflict.
Cast your vote for this volunteer project to receive much-needed orange trees to help create a peaceful co-existence between farmers and elephants for many more years to come.