The northwestern region of the Namib Desert in Namibia, an area known as Damaraland, is home to approximately 600 desert-adapted elephants and a group of subsistence farmers who compete for the area's water supply.
In an effort to manage a co-existence that benefits both humans and elephants, Abenteuer Afrika Safaris offers a volunteer work project through EHRA (Elephant Human Relations Aid) for a minimum of two weeks to a maximum of three months.
The EHRA project was founded in 2003 by nature conservationist Johannes Haasbroek. Originally from South Africa, he has lived in Namibia for nine years. Having witnessed the return of the desert elephants to the area and the ensuing problems caused by their destruction of farmers' water points, Haasbroek set up EHRA and the volunteer project as an initiative to recreate a harmonious relationship between humans and elephants.
The project's emphasis is on building protective structures around communal water points, creating additional water points for the elephants, assisting with and teaching farmers skills to financially benefit through tourism, researching elephant movements, and compiling identity kits on herds as well as individual elephants.
The projects work on a two week rotation. During the first week volunteers will be either building protection walls around a local farmers' water point or constructing alternative drinking points for the elephants. Sometimes they may also work on other projects such as teaching farmers' wives to make paper using elephant dung, helping community members build a tourist camp or fix a rural school, and sometimes they spend time fixing up things around base camp.
Elephant patrol is scheduled for the second week when participants track and follow the resident herds of elephants.
In this true adventure on the wild side participants sleep under the stars, learn how to track and approach dangerous animals on foot, read animal behavior and maps – not to forget the essentials of setting up bush camp, safety, hygiene, and the art of campfire cooking.
With the escalation of tourism, the value of wildlife in Damaraland is increasing. By helping to alleviate the pressure that the farmers face and promoting the future of the desert elephants so that both humans and animals can survive, volunteers will assist in the continuous positive development of the conservancies and their ideals.
Over the past three years much has been achieved with over 35 farms now secured, but there are many other farms facing water crisis daily, due to elephant damage.
This is an opportunity to join pioneer conservationists at work in one of the last true wilderness areas on earth. The project is open to all ages, and anyone who is relatively fit is capable and welcome. The cost for each two-week slot is US$736 (depending on exchange rates), and participants may sign up for up to six slots. The rate includes food, transportation, and accommodation.