Farmers in Peljorling (Sipsu) in Samtse are gradually losing their patience as rummaging of their fields by elephants and wild boars shows no signs of stopping.
It has been more than years now that farmers have become victim to these wild animals. The furious farmers also stopped cultivating their farmlands once after seeing their produce such as paddy, banana, areca nuts and other vegetables being destroyed by elephants, boars and peacocks.
And with the time for harvesting of paddy approaching, frequent visits to their farms by the wild animals have also increased. Farmers say it has become common for them to attack the crops these days and that farmers are awake the whole night guarding their crops.
A 55-year-old widow, Pema Lhamo, lost 95 trees of areca nuts to wild elephants just two months ago.
“My first income from the fruits worth around Nu 50,000 has been looted by the elephants. All I had were those areca nut trees, which are the source of livelihood for me and my two children. Now I am devastated,” she added.
Meanwhile, a herd had destroyed 21 areca nut trees at Singyegang.
Farmers are also complaining that the forest located nearby the village has made access easy for the wild animals to enter their farms. The elephants ravage their farms during nights, either in groups or single, however, the wild boars have brought more destruction to the farmers than the elephants.
“We know when the elephants come and we can manage to chase them. But wild boars come at dawn when everyone is asleep,” Kuenzang Pelzure, another farmer from Peljorling, said.
The problem is worse in Tashichholing and neighboring gewogs, where various methods of protection have failed. Annually, wild animals destroy every crop that the farmers grow. While elephants frequent once a week, boars have started attacking fields every night these days.
Meanwhile, the frustrated farmers from Peljoring, Singyegang and Jogimara say they are also handicapped to deal with the issue considering the stringent laws on hunting down wild animals.
Singyegang Tshogpa Ram Prasad Sharma said that recent survey identified 13 entry points for the elephants from Indian reserved forests of Jaldhaka within Singyegang. The farms in Tashichholing are the easiest for the elephants to enter.
With no solution at their disposal, almost 300 acres of land are being left fallow in Singyegang. Further, more than 60% of the paddy fields are left fallow in Peljorling. The other crops which the farmers cultivated have also been stopped for the fear of losing them to the wild animals. However, leaving more land fallow has only increased the frequency of visit by the wild animals.
“The destruction used to be minimal when everyone cultivated. But when most of them stopped, the animals have to thrive on the limited harvest,” a farmer from Singyegang said.
Meanwhile, a crop insurance group has also been formed within the community, which collects Nu 500 annually and compensates the victim. And farmers’ tryst to cultivate different crops has also failed to keep these wild animals away.
A farmer had recently lost millets, which was about to be harvested, to the wild animals, . He stopped cultivating paddy this year because of the increasing wild-life depredation. While he has cultivated millets in 1.8 acres of his land, his crops are being attacked by monkeys during the day and boars, and elephants during the night. “Our efforts are all wasted. There is no use when everything is lost,” Tandin Gyeltshen, a 78-year- old farmer said, adding that he had constructed two stands to guard his crops.
Peljoring and the adjacent areas were earlier also popular for Kalo Nunia cultivation, high quality rice and other varieties of rice. The products were also in demand. Further, fertile soil and climatic condition were favorable for paddy cultivation. Farmers then used to be self-sufficient without having to import rice from India.
With the increasing destruction from wild animals, not only has rice production declined, but people have also been compelled to move out, seeking employment opportunities elsewhere.
Farmers say that there should also be provisions that allow conversion of the wetland into dry land so that other crops can also be cultivated.
Ramesh Chhetri, 37, has left his one acre land fallow and is currently working in the capital. He said, “There is no better option than to move out without much source of income.” Further, all efforts such as installing and using sirens, and electrical fencing have failed to keep the wild animals away. “All these measures have failed. Nothing can stop them. They have become unstoppable,” another farmer, Jiwan Chhetri said.
Tashichholing Gup Sameer Giri attributed the increasing wildlife depredation to the destruction of food habits in the jungle.
“People bring bananas from the forest which used to be their food. So, there is no option for them to take it back,” he said, adding that farmers should continue cultivating without losing hope as the government has planned to block the entry points for these elephants using excavators. There are also plans to construct a ring road across the periphery of the field, which will ease the farmers to chase the wild animals away. The matter had also been reported to the ministry.
Sipsu, meanwhile, is considered a passage for wildlife to pass through to different areas. The government has recently provided Nu 2.7mn for electric fencing works, which will be carried out soon.
Krishna Ghalley from Sipsu