“In my second week I moved to Goalpara and joined up with Joydeep Chakrabarty-Project Officer EcoSystems-India-and his team. I visited 13 villages whilst with them – carrying out similar repair work to fences and equipment in villages like I had done in Sonitpur. But I was also able to see some of the other diverse ways that the Assam Haathi Project (AHP) has been helping people. Not only does the project offer direct support in protection from elephants but it also helps people with alternative livelihoods and provides educational programmes in schools.
“I was taken to one village where looms and sewing machines had been bought for the village to produce textiles. There were several women that could use the looms to make items to sell at local markets and gain extra income for their families. In the same village the AHP had also given them some livestock to maintain and when required could also sell at the market.
“Speaking to some of the women that used the looms they were very pleased that they did not have to rely as heavily on the field crops and hope that the project continues to support them in this way.
“Perhaps one of the best places I was taken was to an area near the Manas National Park where the project had recently completed erecting the AHP’s longest section of fencing. Just under 17km of electric fence powered by 5 solar-battery stations protects approximately 800 homes.
Not only had the community bought into the project to help build such a fence but they had taken it one step further and started a community committee purely for issues relating to the fence. There’s one overall committee that is supported by smaller village committees to raise funds for essential maintenance and repairs to the fence as needed. Since its completion the area has seen a near 100% reduction in issues arising from elephant conflict. A staggering achievement for everybody involved!
“For me to be able to participate with the places I visited in this way has given me a great sense of achievement for the work being carried out by the Assam Haathi Project. The dedication shown by the team out in India as well as the enthusiasm and gratitude from the local people has shown me how-with a little extra help-a huge difference can be made to so many lives. In turn this is then helping to conserve the remaining populations of elephants that are found in areas such as Assam.”