Shooing away mass jumbos

The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) has undertaken multiple projects to ensure human-elephant coexistence

The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservations (BTFEC) project titled ““Ensuring Human-Elephant Coexistence for Sustainable Community Livelihood and Elephant Conservation in Samtse Forest Landscape” is making waves and contributing significantly to addressing human-elephant conflict (HEC) in the southern belt of Bhutan.

The project has prioritized hotspots mapping by relying on spatial data analysis, elephant radio collaring, and innovative solutions like enrichment plantation of palatable species, artificial waterholes, and bio-fence plantations to keep away elephants.

The communities of Tashicholing gewog in Samtse are benefiting from the project which is implemented by the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) from July 2020 to June this year.

October-November month is harvest season in the southern foothills of Bhutan and it is also the time when the communities there experience HEC. In Samtse Dzongkhag, Tashicholing gewog has seen the highest cases of HEC incidences. Cash crops like Areca nut, maize and paddy are damaged during the HEC.

Meanwhile, the BTFEC supported project titled Development of Agroforestry as an Alternative Livelihood Option in the Human-wildlife Conflict Hotspots of Bhutan that started in July 2020 and ended in July 2023, conducted social survey using semi-structured questionnaires to explore how wild edible plants can provide nutritional diversity, improve food security, and promote environmental sustainability for small holder farmers. 303 soil samples collected from the project areas to determine carbon sequestration potential from the agroforestry system to mitigate climate change.

The study identified a wide range of wild plant species, showcasing the rich biodiversity in the project areas. The integration of these plants into agriculture systems is recognized as beneficial. The soil samples are stored for determination of bulk density and analysis of physical and chemical properties. BTFEC also developed wildlife-friendly farm using agroforestry model.

BTFEC distributed 1160, 397, and 272 numbers of Avocado, walnut, and cane seedlings to the project beneficiaries. It carried out maintenance of buffer plantations at Yagang and Gengu respectively. The findings of the project were presented to 79 project beneficiaries.

Today, the beneficiaries from these rural communities are reaping the benefits from this project. The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) is the world’s first environmental trust fund, established in 1991 as a collaborative venture between the Royal Government of Bhutan, and bilateral/multilateral partners. An endowment of USD 20 million was set as target for an innovative mechanism for sustainable financing of conservation programs in Bhutan. Donors to the trust fund include the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Global Environment Facility, the governments of Bhutan, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

The BTFEC, today, is an effective conservation grant-making organization, autonomous of the government with its endowment fund reaching USD 75 million as of June 2023. Since its inception, BTF has awarded more than 239 projects amounting to over USD 25 million. Projects are granted through Request for Proposals process with an overall budget of USD1.5 to 2 million annually.

BTFEC has improved substantially in terms of its governance, grant-making, investment and financial management, and monitoring & evaluation practices. With further strengthening in its human resources, BTFEC’s program management and business operation has developed considerably over the years.

Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu