• The EPI Foundation

People and elephants: the competition for land in Tanzania’s highlands

The southern boundary of Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a stark example of how elephants and people are now competing for space in many parts of Africa. In these fertile highlands, the fields of maize and beans extend right to the boundary of the Conservation area. Subsistence farmers are able to erect only the most rudimentary of fencing to keep elephants away from their crops.

Subsistence farms stretch up to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area boundary.
Coffee farmers use electric fences to keep elephants out
Coffee farmers use electric fences to keep elephants out

Donatus Gadiye, Elephant Monitoring Coordinator of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCCA), said, ‘Many farmers in this region are seeing their crops destroyed by elephants, and they fear for their lives.They urgently need a solution to their dilemma, otherwise people and wildlife will lose out. We’ve seen an increase in retaliatory killings of elephants by angry farmers.’ Commercial coffee farmers, meanwhile, can afford electric fences, which are more effective at keeping the elephants at bay.


But the elephants themselves are also under pressure. Historically they migrated in large numbers from the Ngorongoro highlands down to the Rift Valley National Parks of Lake Manyara and Tarangire, and other areas such as the Monduli Mountains, Londgido and West Kilimanjaro. Today, these migration corridors have been largely taken over by settlements, farming and other human developments.


The EPI F has been asked by the NCAA to carry out an assessment with a view to creating a customised strategy to mitigate Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) along an 80 kms stretch of the Conservation Area’s southern boundary. Some measures have already been taken. With the assistance of the PAMS Foundation and their associates Wild Survivors, ‘elephant guardians’ from nearby villages have erected beehive fences as well as fences with rags soaked in old engine oil and chilli along limited stretches of the boundary. Both are intended to keep elephants at bay, and have met with some success.

Bee-hive fence
Oil and chill fence

‘If we can help secure this boundary’, says the EPI F’s Grant Burden, ’there will be less HEC, and it is more likely that migrating elephants will be funnelled down viable wildlife corridors as they migrate between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Rift Valley. It’s a huge challenge, in one of the most important wildlife areas of Africa’.