The Sri Lanka Elephant Conservation project was another nominee for the Greenheart Travel “Give Back” Award. Although it didn’t get the most votes, Greenheart Travel decided to donate $500 to support their ongoing projects.
Greenheart Travel’s volunteer project in Sri Lanka works directly with the human-elephant conflict in the country, trying to alleviate one of the leading threats to the local elephant population. This problem is an ongoing conflict with Sri Lankan farmers encroaching on elephants’ territory and in return, elephants destroy farmers’ livelihoods. The project is committed to finding practical solutions to this conflict using a multifaceted approach. The project hopes to create a peaceful co-existence for farmers and elephants in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
After years of research, the project has determined where regular elephant herds travel, and have developed a keen understanding of elephants’ diet. Through this research, they have discovered that elephants have a very adverse reaction to the taste and smell of citrus. With this knowledge, local staff members and volunteers are teaching and training farmers about citrus plants, and helping to create a barrier of citrus trees around rice crops.
This serves as a win-win solution because the elephants stay out of the fields (but are not harmed by electric fences or guns), and the farmers are able to sell the citrus crops for a little bit of extra income. By creating natural barriers, this volunteer project has developed a sustainable solution to elephant and human encroachment. Greenheart Travel’s donation will go towards the ongoing expansion of citrus groves.
Since receiving the $500 donation from Greenheart Travel, the project has created Project Orange Elephant (POE), specifically designated for expanding this initiative of citrus planting. The project envisions the resolution of the human-elephant conflict through sustainable land use practices. It is expected to secure alternative income for farmers, increase earnings and benefits from environmentally sustainable farming practices, decrease dependency on mono-cultivations, help farmers practice more tolerance of elephants, and educate communities to adapt sustainable, alternative livelihoods and land use practices.
POE selected a village called Jayavijaya Devagiriya to focus on. Following careful research it was detected that there is a high possibility of constant interactions between humans and elephants in this area, and POE found that planting these orange trees was a very workable solution. The technical Officer of the Divisional Secretariat of Wilgamuwa decided to separate the 25 houses into four different plots, and made a plan to plant orange trees to protect the houses and crops.
So far, the orange plant cultivation has been completed, and the planting of the orange trees plot-wise was carried out. Currently, there are eighteen households with 250 plants to be planted in the separate plots of land. The volunteers and staff are now conducting a survey to identify the growth of the plants distributed, and the further support required by the families in order to successfully cultivate the given plant. After being requested by the government, they will distribute lime plants to cultivate alongside the current electric fence, creating a bio fence as a live deterrent.
Greenheart Travel is thrilled about the potential the Sri Lanka Elephant Conservation project has to continue making a positive impact on the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. It is an honor to be able to give back to our overseas partners in this way. We are grateful to all of our Greenheart Travel volunteers for working together to help improve communities abroad through such important initiatives. These efforts would not be possible without an attitude of service and dedication.