This is KOUAMA Joseph. He lives in the village of Dia, near the Messok Dja Forest in The Republic of Congo.
Joseph has a plantation of cacao, which he planted some years ago. To get some income from the plantation before the cacao trees start yielding fruit, he planted other crops between the trees. When the plantation was still young, the elephants and they came to devastate his field.
‘They ate the manioc, trampled on the cocoa, the papaya, they destroyed everything. It was a big loss to me. We had refused the Park (Messok Dja) before, they came to ask us if we needed to make the Park, we said no. When the elephants will come in big numbers we will not have anything to eat.’
In order to reduce the conflict between man and elephant, ETIC set up an insurance system.
ETIC ( Espace TRIDOM Interzone Congo) is a conservation program setting up in 2005, by a signed collaboration agreement between WWF and the Congolese government. This agreement was renewed in February 2016.
Farmers can pay a small amount into the fund and if their fields get destroyed by animals, the ETIC program reimburses part of the costs. ‘The people from ETIC came to talk to us about insurance of the plantations. They told us, we understand your problem, so pay the insurance, and when the elephants come destroy your fields we will pay half and the state will pay the other half. The others said, no, we do not want to do that. But when we paid our insurance, and when the elephants destroyed my field again, ETIC paid the damage. Now the others also started to pay, because it is a really good system.’
‘I had paid my insurance at 5.000 franc (8€), when the elephants came and destroyed my plantation, ETIC assessed the damage. They calculated the damage at 500,000 franc and I was given 271,700 franc (415€). That is good!’.
In addition to paying for damages, it is also important to prevent damage. In the past it has not been easy to find methods that keep elephants away from plantations. Joseph thinks he knows why the problem is increasing. ‘The elephants come to us because now there is a lot of work going on in the forest. There are machines that make noise in the forest, they are cutting down trees. The elephants flee from there to our place because here is not too much noise. ‘There used to be no building sites, no noise, the forest was virgin, quiet, the elephants were eating well.’.
WWF continues to work with local communities to reduce the Human Elephant Conflict while also discussing with stakeholders how to best manage the Messok Dja forest, so people and wildlife can live in close proximity without conflict.