A number of farming communities of the #Khoa di //Hoas, Ehi-Rovipuka and Omatendeka Conservancies have already adopted the Namibian Lion Trust’s (previously AfriCat North) Livestock Protection Programme (hereafter LPP). Agreements with the Anabeb and Orupupa Conservancies are in progress. Regular meetings and workshops within each Conservancy have evolved and the potential for change, in both attitude and practice, is evident.
Especially through the Lion Guard programme, the Namibian Lion Trust guides and encourages farmers to accept and practice innovative and arid-adaptive livestock-management, farming techniques and, most importantly, livestock protection methods: the use of strong, predator-proof bomas, LionLights and herdsmen. In most cases, the farmers are keen to take on the new farming techniques and management ideas, agreeing to maintain the structures donated by Namibian Lion Trust. In appreciation of this support, they commit to refrain from persecuting large carnivores. This mutual understanding is endorsed by the traditional leaders and should be disseminated to the farmers.
Livestock Protection 'Bomas'
Livestock Protection ‘Bomas’ are enclosures that keep the large predators out and keep livestock safe inside. A typical nocturnal ‘boma’ includes a strong, 2.3m high perimeter fence, the total size of the structure depending on the number of livestock needing protection. Sometimes, the existing ‘bomas’ only require upgrades to already well-maintained fences, meaning materials are donated to improve on the height and strength thereof.
Despite the growing local willingness to ‘live with wildlife,’ communal farmers continuously struggle against the elements and many other challenges. Despite the ever-present threat to their livestock, be it predators or theft, many farmers still leave their cattle to graze unattended during the day, as well as at night, which sends an open invitation to predators to grab a quick meal. However, an increasing number of farmers have adopted the suggested effective livestock management techniques and agree to use nocturnal ‘bomas’ to protect their livestock.
The Lion Guards typically indicate the need of a ‘boma’ in conflict ‘hot-spots’. When they identify such a ‘hotspot’, meetings are held with the affected community and leaders in order to establish the degree of commitment to the Livestock Protection Programme. Once consensus has been reached, the Namibian Lion Trust, thanks to generous sponsors, donate materials for the erection of a communal ‘boma’, generally placed in a central location close to a water source and may be used by any member of the community.
Before dark, the cattle and other domestic animals should be herded into these enclosures to protect them from predators and theft during the night. As the dry season often stretches from June-February, farmers are forced to graze their livestock vast distances from the homestead, often too far to return before nightfall. To safe-guard the animals in the field at night, the Namibian Lion Trust also offers a ‘mobile boma’ option: ‘Mobile boma’s’ are the answer to protecting livestock when forced to move further afield for grazing; shade-cloth is wrapped around trees to approx. 2 metres in height and the base is secured with rocks and / or tree stumps. In this way, mobile boma’s are erected in 1-2 hours, used for more than one night if need be and taken down with ease, to move to a new grazing area. The effectiveness has been proven, as long as the height is maintained and the base is secured. Since boma’s are key to keeping livestock safe during peak carnivore hunting time, early evening to early morning, the Lion Guards regularly inspect the boma’s to ensure that they are maintained and predator-proof.
These invaluable, blinking LED lights, which emulate people with torches, are fixed to the boma’s at a certain height, to ward off lurking lions at night. This basic design offers an inexpensive yet effective tool, deterring wildlife from approaching livestock boma.
The Lion Guards have monitored lion movement to approx. 150m from the kraals with LionLights. They concluded that the lion would lie for a short while observing, before taking off into the darkness…
The ‘LionLights’ are a product of Kenya, first imported by AfriCat in 2018. So far, 250 LionLights have been distributed to communal farmers in known conflict ‘hot-spots’, but many more are needed.
To date, no ‘boma’ or settlement supported by LionLights has reported incidents, demonstrating the success of this innovative technology. Moving forward, the hope is that more ‘LionLights’ can be distributed across communities whose farming practices are threatened by large carnivores.
Traditionally, family members guard their livestock, taking them out to graze during the day and returning with them to the safety of boma’s before dark. Since formal education is compulsory in Namibia, most youth from farming communities leave home at the age of seven to attend school, and are accommodated in boarding hostels, forcing their families to employ herdsmen. This brings with it a number of challenges as non-family members demand wages and food, and strangers are not always trustworthy.
Many farmers do employ herdsmen but few can afford such an expense, leaving their herds unattended.
Through the Namibian Lion Trust’s collaboration with Conservation Agriculture Namibia (CAN), best practice Rangeland Management encourages grazing cattle especially, as one herd instead of each farmer trying to take care of his/her own; herdsmen may be shared proving to be more effective, but payment options remain a challenge. Together with the essential use of protective nocturnal ‘bomas’, especially when livestock are forced to remain in the field, this innovative pasture and livestock management has shown great success in many arid to semi-arid regions across the globe.