Electric fence or the food fence?

Area examined Electric Fence Food fence
Cost of installation/ planting (zigzag) per km. Rs. 500,000 Rs. 72,000
Cost of maintenance per km. per year Rs. 25,000 (without solar panel) Rs. 5000 (for first 3 years and thereafter ‘0’ cost for about 100 years)
Effective period (life of the fence) 10 to 12 years 80 to 100 years
Area examined Electric Fence Food fence
Cost of installation/ planting (zigzag) per km. Rs. 500,000 Rs. 72,000
Cost of maintenance per km. per year Rs. 25,000 (without solar panel) Rs. 5000 (for first 3 years and thereafter ‘0’ cost for about 100 years)
Effective period (life of the fence) 10 to 12 years 80 to 100 years

 

Area examined Electric Fence Food fence
Cost of installation/ planting (zigzag) per km. Rs. 500,000 Rs. 72,000
Cost of maintenance per km. per year Rs. 25,000 (without solar panel) Rs. 5000 (for first 3 years and thereafter ‘0’ cost for about 100 years)
Effective period (life of the fence) 10 to 12 years 80 to 100 years

 

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What says the statistics?

Damages to humans, crops and properties of the forest adjacent communities by the wild elephants and killings elephants back by humans have been reported over the last several centuries in Sri Lanka (Department of Wildlife Conservation, 2008).  However, today the problem has come to its climax due to rapid increase of population of humans as well as elephants.  The human population of Sri Lanka has increased by 150% during the last 6 decades (1950-2010) while wild elephant population has increased by 300% during the same period as a result of effective conservation measures taken by the DWLC (Census and Statistics Department of Sri Lanka, 2009; Department of Wildlife Life Conservation 2008).  These two figures are adequate enough to realize the current context of human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka where both parties are seriously wounded by each other.  Since 1950, a total of 1375 people have been killed by wild elephants and in retaliation, 4225 elephants have been killed by humans (only recorded killings of elephants).

elephant-at-electric-fence

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Palmyra fence

A proposal had been presented to introduce a palmyra hedge as a substitute for the electrified fence to solve the human and elephant conflict. A number of districts in the dry zone are faced with wild elephant attacks.

The Datival Action Institute has certified that the palmyra hedge is a suitable method for Sri Lanka after about an year’s research. According to the research, the institute had selected the Moneragala district to implement the proposal. Moneragala District Secretary U K S Mihindukulasuriya had taken measures to build the palmyra fence in several areas with the assistance of the Moneragala residents. An awareness programme on the palmyra fence was held at the Moneragala District Secretariat office where Davital Action Institute’s research team leader Ranasinghe Perera explained the system.

“Using a palmyra fence as a substitute for the electrified fence is a profitable and eco-friendly method,” he said. Currently, an electrified fence has been established in areas most affected by elephant attacks in 1,400 kilo metres. The government has spent around Rs 500,000 per kilometre to establish the fence while Rs 25,000 is spent annually for the repair work. The maximum period of the fence is only five years.

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Planting of seeds

During the first year of the project operation, total of 235,000 Palmyra seeds were planted in all three sites.  100,000 Palmyra seeds planted at Verugal site and 65,000 seeds were planted at Konakumbukwewa site.  The amount of seed planted at Udawalawa was 80,000.   As the germination rate of Palmyra seeds is relatively low, (around 10-20%) two to three rounds of seed planting is necessary to complete a gapless fence.  Based on the indigenous knowledge and experience of the communities, seeds were planted in 4 rows having 5 feet gap between seed points and 8 feet gap between rows.  One of the partners of the MoU, PDB provided around 75,000 seeds for planting.  The rest was collected by the communities involved in the action. 

Progress of the project

The first phase of the project was for a period of four years from 2012 to 2016.  Work plan of the project included 7 specific actions and the project was operated on a MoU signed with three national level government agencies.   The leading agency of the project was Practical Action/Janathakshan.  The partner agencies were Department of Wild life Conservation (DWLC), Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI), and Palmyra Development Board (PDB).  DWLC provided the authoritative support for the action such as clearances, permissions, institutional backing, procedural supports etc. for fencing at selected locations and PDB provided technical support to establish Palmyra palms by providing seeds, seedlings, and other extension services.  HARTI assist the project by sharing its expertise and experiences to mobilize local communities for the action.  Below is the progress of the actions during the first year of the project.  The progress is reported under 7 specific actions suggested by the proposal.

Palmyra fencing as an alternative to electric fencing

ImageBecause:

  • They are robust trees and are never damaged by wild elephants
  • Survive around 100 years
  • No maintenance needed (Battery, solar panels, regular clearing etc.)
  • Free from community and government obligations
  • Drought resistant
  • Flood tolerant (even more than 45 days continuous inundation)
  • Resistant to salinity
  • Fire tolerant