Research To Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict In Agricultural Areas

Agribusiness Network member and Kenyan MasterCard scholar, Abigail shares how her research into protecting agricultural land while conserving wildlife.

My name is Abigael Simaloi Pertet, a Kenyan MasterCard scholar from Earth University. I am an Agronomic Engineer by profession, with a passion for environmental conservation, as well as women and youth empowerment. I’ve worked to help empower women in agribusiness plus the education of girls through scholarships and mentorship.

I’ve recently started working on rare research being carried out by the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) in the heart of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Maasai Mara is one of the most famous and important wildlife conservation and wilderness areas in Africa. It’s world-renowned for its exceptional population of lions, African leopards, cheetahs, and African bush elephants. Mara Elephant Project envisions the peaceful co-existence of a stable elephant population with the people across the Greater Mara Ecosystem (GME). MEP uses rangers and an applied research approach to disrupting poaching in the region. The Transmara region is an area adjacent to the Mara and is separated by the Mara River. It mainly consists of farmers who do not have the direct benefit of wildlife but experience a continuous conflict with elephants that destroy their only source of income – crops. To reduce the conflict and protect both the farmers’ and the elephants’ livelihoods, Mara Elephant Project is currently researching the feeding habits of elephants in the Transmara.

I am MEP’s farm manager at their experimental farm and I work with a team of six people.  The farm is an organically managed research centre designed to study 32 different crops on a five-acre farm. The farm is divided into 25mplots where each crop type is planted five times in a row and is separated by 3m footpaths. We have a nursery where we propagate seedlings for the farm. We maintain records of predation, planting, harvesting, irrigation, and crop status, as well as taking pictures of each plot weekly. Vervet monkeys, hippopotamus, and different types of birds have frequented the farm, though we’ve also had a few visits from elephants, making the research more complex and thorough.

The research results would be a great breakthrough for most farmers living adjacent to wildlife conservation areas. Our work focus is to enhance the co-existence of wildlife, especially elephants, with humans. The increased human population is reducing conservation lands, and with fewer habitats, there is a high prevalence of conflict, where crops and lives are lost in the process. Working with a great team to bring lasting solutions to communities is one of the most comforting and rewarding feelings that make me enjoy research in agriculture and conservation.

As a MasterCard scholar, I am grateful because we have a chance to network as family and professionals through the AL for Agribusiness Network. The platform is full of opportunities, and one finds the encouragement and motivation to work towards not only improving their own life but also that of their community. I encourage each of us to continue tapping into the benefits that AL for Agribusiness Network constantly provides for us and to appreciate the great team working tirelessly to ensure we are informed and networked.

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