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Tom Yum project

Too spicy for elephants!

The Tom Yum project is named after the spicy, healthy Thai soup of which the ingredients (chilli, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, onion, coriander) are not attractive to elephants. This means the crops can be used as an income-generating natural elephant deterrent. To maximise the product range and the diversity of livelihoods, we combine the Tom Yum ingredients with other crops that are disliked by elephants, such as lime, ginger, chamomile, mint, basil, turmeric, or citronella. To promote human-elephant coexistence in Thailand, we support farmers to grow these ingredients instead of mono-crops that impact biodiversity and attract elephants. The Tom Yum project helps to diversify local livelihoods, create employment for rural people, and protect the ecosystems on which we all depend.

Tom Yum: too spicy for elephants!

The Tom Yum ingredients are easy to grow, are familiar to Thai people, economically viable and have been tested as effective elephant deterrents. They can be grown organically, whereas the current mono-crop plantations degrade soil quality and biodiversity due to heavy use of chemicals. The Tom Yum Project is straightforward and does not involve advanced technology, expertise or investment. Farmers continue their traditional way of life using their existing skills but instead of attracting elephants to their land, they now deter elephants in a natural and animal-friendly way while their livelihood doesn’t depend on a single crop. So far, BTEH has tested beehive fences and engaged community members in growing chilli and lemongrass with positive results. The chilli can be combined with beehive fences, to test spicy beehive fences, or used to infuse elephants dung which can be lit when elephants enter farmland.

How does it work?

The Tom Yum project will kick off with workshops to engage farmers, young students and other community members in creative discussions to develop their own solutions to reduce damage from elephants. Depending on the farmer’s interest, the crops can be used not only for soup but also for a variety of niche products, all with a unique story: Thai lemongrass massage oil, ginger turmeric tea, honey turmeric soap, chilli jam, citronella candles… the possibilities are endless! By developing and promoting these unique products, the community will benefit economically, socially, culturally and ecologically from this project.

You can now purchase the Tom Yum products at our new webshop Elephant & Co.

  • The Tom Yum project represents a holistic, community-based conservation approach in the communities in human-elephant conflict hotspot areas. So far, farmers in Chanthaburi, Kanchanaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces are excited about the Tom Yum project and are ready to get started!
  • It is an ongoing project that supports local people to lead conservation action in a way that reduces violence and balances the protection of elephants and their habitat with socio-economic interests of the communities.
  • It hitches on to the age-old tradition of a famous Thai soup and has a touch of humour, both factors that may help local people to try something new.

This holistic community-based conservation approach promotes human-elephant coexistence, reduces the use of chemicals, improves livelihoods and increases biodiversity. The Tom Yum project builds a network of farmers across Thailand supporting each other, contributing to social resilience to HEC, and developing new skills in organic and permaculture farming. The project will start in three regions to ensure sufficient yield for the products and to study environmental and social variables between the project sites. This will help to improve the method and ensure long-term sustainability and success.   

Coexistence between elephants and people is further promoted through a homestay program that includes conservation activities, such as planting Trees for Elephants and bee-attracting flowering plants (e.g. basil, chamomile, coriander and mint), cultural activities (e.g. elephant dung paper making, Tom Yum soup cooking course, and Tom Yum product spa treatment) and safaris to observe elephants in their natural habitat.

Donate 5 euro and receive the elephant-friendly Tom Yum recipe!

Many thanks to everyone who donated to the Tom Yum project and to the Marjo Hoedemakers Elephant Foundation, Franci Blanco of Happy Hearts Yoga Project, Lush Charity Pot and Voeten in de Aarde who made the launch of the Tom Yum project possible.

News and updates

2022-11-29  Visit to the Sisaket Fairtrade Farmer Group
2022-05-28  Tom Yum & elephant steps
2022-04-02  The Tom Yum project inspires other people living with elephants

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