An extremely cost effective and easy approach to keep elephants out of farms is called a chili fence. Chili fences are built using a potent combination of recycled motor oil and chili powder that elephant’s highly sensitive trunks dislike. Recycled fabric is then dipped into that mixture and hung on a fence made of wooden posts and sisal rope. The elephant’s sensitive sense of smell finds the chili fence a strong deterrent from crop raiding.
MEP discovered this extremely effective human-conflict mitigation tool while working in Tanzania, where the method of building chili fences was pioneered. In 2015, MEP rangers were trained in Tanzania on how to make and maintain a proper chili fence.
“WHEN THEY BREATHE IN EVEN VERY, VERY SMALL AMOUNTS OF CAPSAICIN THAT YOU GET WHEN YOU BURN A CHILI, FOR EXAMPLE, THEIR WHOLE TRUNK IS STIMULATED.” Loki Osborn of the nonprofit Elephant Pepper Development Trust in an interview with National Public Radio.
A chili fence is a vital tool in the MEP HEC Toolkit, but simply erecting one is not enough. MEP rangers are also tasked with training the community on how to maintain the fence and create more in the area when necessary. The purpose of the training is to transfer this knowledge to the local community so that they can protect their precious crops from hungry elephants.
During these trainings farmers are able to ask questions about how to seek support when elephants come into their farms. We encourage them to plant their own chili seed from Tanzania and help them procure the materials needed so that they could build chili fences around their farms for years to come.