Schematic overview of reasons farmers give that discourage them to use a method (red figures), or motivate them to use a method (blue figures), and reasons that constraint them when they try to use a method (yellow figures). The methods are divided into passive method (fences to keep wildlife out of fields), active methods (scaring wildlife out of fields), innovative methods (new methods that could be both passive or active) and wildlife conscious farming where farmers adapt what, where and how they plant to make their fields less attractive to wildlife.

By Susanne Vogel, Anna Songhurst, Graham McCulloch, and Amanda Stronza.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; check back soon for a link to the full paper.

There are many methods farmers can use to reduce the impact that wildlife can have on their crops. For example, farmers might install fencing to keep elephants eating crops. Governments and non-governmental organisations want to help farmers use these methods, and often do so by providing farmers with materials, such as fencing, for implementing mitigation projects. However, farmers do not always use the methods that these organisations recommend. We found that the materials organizations provide to farmers were often not the same materials for the methods farmers wanted to use. Farmers told us that they also preferred to be able to earn money, and be able to travel to cities, so they could buy the materials they wanted themselves.

We show that there are a variety of reasons farmers select given mitigation methods. These reasons include motivation to use some methods or constraints on using others. We collected this information by asking 20 farmers in the eastern panhandle of the Okavango Delta in Botswana the reasons for using, or not using, a method to stop elephants from eating crops. After this, we tested if we could predict if a farmer used a method or not, by only asking about these criteria. We tried to predict this for 81 farmers and managed to be able to predict this for 14 of the 16 mitigation methods we tested.

 We recommend that anyone wishing to support farmers to coexist with wildlife: 1) discuss with farmers which methods they want to use, and collaborate with them long term; 2) increase farmers’ ability to earn an income and access the market to buy materials they want; 3) support the sharing of knowledge between farmers, and between farmers and people that have access to information on method use and effectiveness; 4) remember that every farmer has a specific situation and preference, and there is no one-size fits all solution; and 5) explore the potential of sustainable methods like wildlife conscious farming where farmers adapt what, where and how they plant.