The Mara Elephant Project Co-Existence Farm began over a year ago with the goal of making a traditional subsistence farm elephant friendly. We started by farming in an area known for high conflict to develop agricultural best practices specific to the Mara.
The river flowing to the left is the iconic Mara River. The farm sits right alongside the life blood of the Mara and attracts wildlife from the protected area across the river.
Over the last year, the head of our Co-Existence Department Abigael Pertet and her team have discovered that elephants aren’t the only predators in the Mara, just the biggest.
Hippos, vervet monkeys and birds all had high levels of predation but aren’t quite so noticeable while crop raiding. They’ve also noted these crops, lavender, citriodora, rosemary, chili, tea tree, geranium, and onion, as just a few that had zero predation.
In 2022, the farm launched a kitchen garden featuring crops most commonly eaten at local tables that can be grown in a small space with low predation levels and are relatively inexpensive. The farm nursery is also contributing to this project as we work to propagate heirloom seeds that are often more expensive in order to make them more affordable locally.
The farm also recently launched a medicinal garden that will focus on growing traditional medicinal plants to test the predation levels. Medicinal plants are not only useful, but previous research has shown that they have a low predation level and value addition potential. The medicinal garden will also contribute to the community’s preservation efforts to see this historical knowledge about medicinal plants passed down for future generations. The farm team has already planted over 10 crops and received apothecary heirloom seeds to cultivate more. We’ve taken inspiration from Debbie Colson’s medicinal garden, pictured.
The visits to the farm from interested community members continues to steadily grow. Abigael now regularly receives visitors from the community and these visits have been a great way to collaborate and share ideas. One of the reasons it’s becoming even more important to launch a resource center to host visitors as a central education hub for co-existence farming.
The hub is just one of the goals for 2023. The farm team is also looking to conduct community surveys to determine their attitudes toward elephant-friendly crops and a corresponding market study to determine if the market is favorable for the crops with low predation levels. The team also wants to expand our community training to include the kitchen garden, medicinal garden and other predator deterrents identified at the farm. We’d like to create a template a community can use to re-create the success we’re having at the farm at growing nutrient rich crops that aren’t attracting predators.
The new programs are thanks to donor support in 2022, which made all of this possible.
MEP is grateful to our research partners Kenya Wildlife Service, Wildlife Research and Training Institute, Narok Country Government and Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association for their support.