Moving from conflict to coexistence requires a number of focused, integrated management tools and strategies that provide short and long-term solutions. Our holistic approach includes working with famers to develop and deploy effective tools for deterring elephants from crop-raiding and avoiding negative confrontations; facilitating land use planning in collaboration with government land boards and local communities to consider critical elephant movement corridors; leading agricultural experiment and innovation to improve farmer resilience to the impacts of crop raiding by elephants; facilitating tourism and other micro-enterprise development so local communities can benefit from sharing space with elephants, and; conducting applied, multidisciplinary research with a team of local and international students. The overarching goal is to create an enabling environment for policies and on-the-ground programs and incentives to reduce HEC and allow elephants and people to coexist.
Our strategies are evidence-based and designed and carried out in close collaboration with all stakeholders, in a participatory way. We connect science with policy, supporting informed decision-making through our research and field based evidence. In doing so, we are strengthening the existing work of government agencies, local communities, regional stakeholders, and the private sector by facilitating collaboration, communication, capacity building, and information exchange. Full stakeholder participation is a key component of our approach in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of our activities.
In working towards our goal of reducing HEC, we are also addressing broader development and conservation issues, such as food security and economic development for rural communities, sustainable resource management, and regional HEC resolution that supports transfrontier conservation initiatives.
The project is administered through the Ecoexist Trust, a Botswana-based NGO with community representation. Ecoexist Trust is partnering with Oxford University and a U.S.-based university, Texas A&M, in order to lead interdisciplinary research and gather important baseline and monitoring data in a participatory way.
Ecoexist directors, Dr. Anna Songhurst, and Dr. Graham McCulloch are constantly mentoring and collaborating closely with interns, technicians, and local and international students to fill knowledge gaps in the search for innovative solutions to HEC. We are also collaborating with and providing capacity-building opportunities for local authorities, relevant public sector department personnel, and other national and international stakeholders.