Image: Elephant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
How do you keep hungry elephants from stealing crops? Farmers have planted rows of chili peppers to keep freeloaders away, and they're also selling the crop to be turned into hot sauces, jams and relishes.
updated 8/5/2005 9:28:20 PM ET 2005-08-06T01:28:20

A little bit of spicy chili peppers is all African farmers need to keep hungry elephants from stealing crops.

By planting a few rows of chili peppers around the perimeter of their crops, farmers have created a buffer zone that's spicy enough to keep elephants, buffalo and other hungry mammals away.

"Chili peppers are unpalatable to crop-raiding mammals, so they give farmers an economically feasible means of minimizing damage to their investments," said Loki Osborn, project director for the Elephant Pepper Development Trust.

Farmers also can mix the chili peppers into a spray that drives animals away.

Chili peppers have been used to keep elephants away since 1997 because they were a cheap alternative to building expensive electric fences. And as a bonus, the peppers have turned into a valuable cash crop themselves.

"They can be grown as buffer crops to prevent crop-raiding and then be harvested and sold on the world market through the trust," Osborn said.

The trust formed two companies — the African Spices Company in Zambia and the Chili Pepper Company in Zimbabwe — to produce and distribute bottled hot sauces, jams and relishes made from the peppers.

Proceeds from these spicy condiments are donated trust to support the development of chili growing projects.

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