Building Living Walls to Protect Wildlife

WINGS WorldQuest Managing Director Yael Jekogian is currently on a month-long round-the-world trip with her family, during which they are visiting visionaries who are running groundbreaking projects with the goal of making the world a better place and creating harmony with humanity, wildlife and nature. During her travels, she is visiting with several WINGS Fellows. The following is the third post in a series of dispatches we will publish during her travels. See the rest of the series here.

Photo courtesy Yael Jekogian.

Photo courtesy Yael Jekogian.

I am in Tanzania visiting with African People & Wildlife, founded by Laly Lichtenfeld, in the village of Loibor Siret at the southeastern border of Tarangire National Park. APW partners with local communities to encourage and establish practices, programs and life-styles that allow humans and wildlife to thrive living side-by-side. There are zebra, giraffe, lions, and many other wild animals roaming around their camp, called the Noloholo Environmental Center, and the main village. 

One of APW’s signature programs is establishing living walls to mitigate conflict between humans and wildlife. They partner with villages to build environmentally sustainable corrals around their cattle so that predators cannot reach their precious livestock. Living walls are 99 percent effective in eliminating predator penetration and attack. This in-turn has caused the formerly declining lion population to significantly increase because there are less and less retaliation killings. 

Living walls are designed and built hand-in-hand with community members, who pay 25 percent of the cost. They plant Commiphora Africana, a fast-growing and hearty tree, around the corral, which serves as posts for chain link fencing. The biggest problem now is keeping up with the demand for them. 

We visited a boma (homestead) to see a living wall and compare it with the neighbors who are working with APW to get a living wall. The cattle corral is the inner circle of the boma. Houses built of sticks, mud, and cow dung built by the women surround the corral. Bomas without living walls use thorn bushes to protect the homestead and the inner corral. Women are constantly repairing the thorn bush fence, which takes them away from other duties and opportunities. When there is a penetration, the women can be blamed and beaten or even banished since they are responsible to reinforce the corral wall. 

The boma without a living wall had the last lion penetration into the cattle corral in May. An APW community liaison rushed to the village to speak with the Maasai warriors about why it is good for their communities and the environment to resist retaliation killings. A common practice for retaliation killings is to poison the carcass of the slain livestock. This practice poisons and kills a whole pride, scavengers, and livestock that feeds on grass around the carcass. This boma is now working with APW to finance and build their own living wall. 

Now that women in villages with living walls no longer have to constantly repair the corrals, they have time for more lucrative opportunities. We visited with the Ngao women’s bee keeping group in the village of Kangala. APW granted them their first bee keeping kits. A dedicated program manager works with them and many other women’s bee keeping groups in the area to teach them about bee keeping, honey harvesting, group governance, and micro-lending. The women use their earnings to give each other micro-loans that may be used for starting their own business or growing an existing business. The women and their husbands feel empowered that the women are able to contribute to the family income. 

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