Effectiveness and adoption of alternative crops as wildlife deterrents around Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda
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Crops grown as alternatives to traditional varieties are increasingly being applied as crop-raider deterrents to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. This study assessed the effectiveness of 8 farmer selected crops (cabbage, carrot, okra, onion, rice, soybean, sunflower and watermelon) as wildlife deterrents, for the effective mitigation of human-wildlife conflict around Budongo Forest Reserve (BFR). An experiment was conducted to determine crop effectiveness in deterring raids by wildlife. Experimental treatments included the 8 crops, and replications were made in 3 randomly selected villages along the forest edge namely Nyakafunjo, Marram and Karongo. The alternative crops had varying degrees of susceptibility to raiders but still performed well as raider deterrents compared to traditional crops. In terms of raid frequency, wildlife raided most crops less than 10% of the time during the growing season. In terms of raider diversity, alternative crops attracted fewer raiders than traditional varieties. Spatially, all raids occurred within 80 meters from the forest edge, and distribution of raids depended on the crop type. Temporally, the onset of raids and length of the raid window varied among crops. Raid events on rice and watermelon targeted stems, while the entire plant was targeted in carrot and onions. Two or more parts were targeted in the other crops. Basing on these parameters, sunflower, rice and onion were judged the most effective alternative crops, while okra, cabbage and soybean were least effective. To determine factors influencing willingness to adopt the alternative crops, a survey among 144 households from Nyakafunjo, Kapeeka, Karongo and Kanyege village along the border of BFR showed that 62% percent of respondents were willing to adopt the crops, with highest preference given to rice, then cabbage and soybean although the latter two were not very effective as deterrents. Effectiveness in raider deterrence was therefore not very influential in shaping preferences of farmers for the alternative crops. Decision-making by male individuals alone and household participation in alternative income-generating activities minimised chances of adoption but low levels of wealth, and access to large parcels of land favoured adoption. Profitability and contribution to household food and income requirements were the crop characteristics that influenced farmers’ adoption decisions most. In terms of macro-environmental factors, availability of local markets and high market prices proved most influential to farmer’s adoption decisions. In conclusion, the study established that sunflower, rice and onion are effective in deterring wildlife around BFR. Furthermore, farmers around BFR were willing to adopt alternative crops but adoption decisions depended on characteristics of the: farmer, crop and macro-environment. The study recommends the use of alternative crops in raider deterrence in cognisance of factors that influence adoption.