Last year, my dad had a problem with deer and rabbits eating the squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables in his garden. To combat the problem this year, he built a wire fence around his crops. His vegetables are starting to sprout, and so far, he’s been successful at keeping the critters out. But if Bugs and Bambi somehow find a way through my dad’s vegetable garden defense perimeter, I have another possible solution for him to try: chili peppers!
Apparently, they work for farmers in certain parts of Africa. Farmers there have been in an ongoing battle with elephants, which have been known to graze on farm crops. I guess it’s pretty obvious that the farmers don’t appreciate this too much, so they’ve fought back by using chili peppers. Why chili peppers? Elephants (and other animals) don’t like the smell or spicy taste of the peppers, so they stay away. Among the chili weapons farmers use are chili fences, fences that are covered in chili-infused grease, and chili dung briquettes to keep elephants away from their crops. To make the briquettes, farmers mix crushed chili with animal dung and then ignite the resulting “bomb”, which releases an aroma that would probably keep anything with a nose away.
Okay, so maybe the chili dung bomb is a little extreme for a residential vegetable garden, but using chili peppers as a way to protect crops works. It’s been so effective that groups like the Elephant Pepper Development Trust have sprouted and are actively encouraging and enabling African farmers to join the chili pepper bandwagon. According to Loki Osborn, who is involved with EPDT, the chili pepper defense method has reduced crop losses due to animal raids by at least 90 percent. And it definitely beats alternative methods, which may result in injury to the elephants, farmers, or both. Not too shabby for an ingredient that can be found in kitchen cupboards around the world.