Our newest project is all about little winged miracle makers! In years past we planted trees (620!) and installed 8 bee colonies with over 100,00 bees as elephant-deterring “live fences” in our “HoneyBees and Orange Trees” Pilot Project. Since then we learned so much about what works and what doesn’t while cultivating new relationships and new skillsets. With enthusiastic support, we’ve begun regenerating butterfly numbers and increasing bee presence to create healthier environments for insects, the land, and people. With appropriate funding, we’re eager to turn our “test farm” into a fully organic farm, helping return the soil and the water table to a healthier condition, as well as ensure future crops are not enticing to elephants, helping reduce elephant-raids which keeps elephants and people safe.
Kidney disease is rampant throughout the small villages where we work due to contaminated groundwater wells and soil. To help slow down the use of the deadly chemicals in villages already struggling with crop loss due to foraging elephants, we hope to show that healthy beehives around a farm and a butterfly garden around the home garden can help increase pollination while decreasing pesticide use.
Combining “western-style” bee boxes with traditional Sri Lankan bee pots gives us the best chance to attract wild swarms. Learning from the old ways while bringing in some new ways values the past while moving ever-forward into the future.
Combining butterflies and bees as a sort of “surround sanctuary” could potentially save human lives as well as shift away from the practices that are making the soil and water truly poisonous to humans and all other animals. An increase in pollinators can help build a bridge to a healthier future while additional options and education are slowly introduced. It takes time to change minds about how farming practices can help or hurt in the long run, and when you’re just getting by as a subsistence farmer, it can be scary to change the methods you’ve used for years.
Our dream is to turn our “test farm” into a fully organic functioning farm, employing “exchange planting”, whereby switching out crops elephants favor (rice, bananas, watermelon) for crops they don’t care for (citrus, coconuts, aloe vera, chili).
We’ve just begun this project, as the long-running monsoon this year forced us to wait until the environment was ready to support the plants and flowers that would feed the butterflies and bees, keeping them happy, healthy, and staying close to their new homes. In the next few months of dry season we’ll be busy installing bee boxes and traditional bee pots, as well as growing the flowering butterfly foods that will support them in being prolific pollinators. Buzzing, fluttering stories from the field coming soon!