Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict Through Livelihood Insurance for Elephant (LIFE) in Sabah Malaysia Borneo
The oil palm plantation industry is a key driver of the Malaysian socio-economic resilience in the rural landscapes. In 2020, Malaysia accounted for 25.8% and 34.3% of world’s palm oil production and exports, respectively, and this speaks volume of the financial implications to Malaysia as a nation and smallholders’ dependency on the commodity. Smallholders are typically defined as individuals working on less than 40 hectares plots; majority are working on 2-10 hectare plots. The mid and large plantation companies operate in plot sizes of more than 40 hectares. Any impropriety in the industry will negatively affect smallholder livelihoods, plantation companies, palm oil industry players, investors' sentiment and market demands. One such issue is how the industry addresses wildlife conflicts which are increasingly focused by financial investors and palm oil products buyers.
The conversion of forested areas into plantations in the past has caused habitat loss and fragmentation, and a recent study by Torre et al. (2020) shows agricultural landscapes have become major—rather than minor—habitats for wildlife, most notably elephants. Elephants have large foraging ranges of 120-227 km2 (Alfred et al., 2012) and when forested regions become smaller or fragmented, the elephants have nowhere to roam and forage except the plantations. Currently, when elephants are found in the plantations, the local wildlife authorities will translocate them back to the forested areas which are already too small and the main reason for the elephants venture out to the plantations. This leads to increased human-elephant conflicts (HEC) and the problem is expected to elevate in the future as more retaliation acts are carried out by farmers who poison or shoot elephants to protect their crops and minimize financial loss.
The LIFE project is curated and enabled by a multi-disciplinary coalition comprising organizations with expertise in actuarial science, wildlife conservation and policy making. They are Actuarial Partners, HUTAN KOCP, Seratu Aatai and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The coalition aims to step up to the task by engaging interested stakeholders and consolidating clear information to roll-out an effective LIFE scheme. The "Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict Through Livelihood Insurance for Elephant (LIFE)" project funded by United Nations GEF-SGP (Project No. MAL/SGP/OP6/Y5/STAR/BD/2020/22.
The LIFE approach has the following objectives:
1. TO REDUCE retaliatory and forceful actions that endangers the oil palm smallholders as well as elephants and other wildlife
2. TO IMPROVE the reputation of Malaysia as a sustainable palm oil producer which is sensitive to wildlife conservation
3. TO PROTECT oil palm smallholders against the uncertainties of crop damages caused by elephants and other wildlife
4. TO PIONEER an affordable and high-quality insurance scheme that meets the needs of unserved and underserved sector (i.e. sustainable palm oil production) in line with the “Perlindungan Tenang” initiative of Bank Negara Malaysia