Achieving a balanced coexistence in southern Africa's Mid-Zambezi Valley between subsistence farmers and wild animals can be tricky.
During the last 20 years elephants have been hemmed in by the increasing number of people moving into the area in search of arable land. As a result, the animals increasingly destroy crops as they roam and search for food.
Traditional methods such as driving the elephants away with fire, drum beating or hunting are temporary solutions that don't protect the crops from future raids. These methods are also ecologically unsound; the long-term impact on the elephant population is not known.
The Elephant Pepper Development Trust (EPDT) is now introducing a natural way to keep the animals away from the farms - by cultivating chili peppers that serve as a natural deterrent to elephant incursions.
With a grant from World Bank's Development Marketplace, EPDT is introducing chili cultivation in the region. When rubbed on a fence, the chili oil becomes an ecologically friendly barrier. Chilies are also a lucrative cash crop that can help raise farmers' incomes.
Some 250 households in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique are taking part in the pilot. These farmers can now defend their farms against predatory animals, instead of relying on government intervention.
EPDT is providing agronomic advice and grading training to prepare farmers to reap and grade the chilies once they are ripe.
EPDT has forged partnerships with CARE-Zambia, the African Wildlife Foundation, Chili Pepper Company (CPC), and African Spices (Pvt) Ltd, Zambia to make the project commerically viable and sustainable. The National Geographic is planning a documentary about EPDT's work. Other development organizations are replicating EPDT's business model for working with subsistence farmers in southern Africa.