July 23-25, Trongsa: Bhutan’s conservation effort towards securing the wildlife habitats is often shadowed by a rampant Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) that is prevalent throughout the country. Of the many HWC incidences, crop depredation by wild herbivores is the most serious issue which leaves many farmers in woe. While many adaptive measures were tested to safeguard the crops from depredation, the most sought method is the use of locally fabricated solar electric fencing.
Ap Sonam, 49 years old is a resident of Jangbi, a small Monpa community under the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP). Having 3 acres of cultivable land where he grows wheat, buckwheat, barley, maize and paddy, he never had the privilege of harvesting full. Over 60-70% of the crops were lost to wild predators like wild boar, deer, sambar, porcupine and bear besides his sleepless nights guarding the crop in makeshift huts and installing numerous effigies around the field. ‘It is very saddening that besides regular guarding, I hardly get 30-40% of the harvest’, Ap Sonam said. ‘Looking to the fellow farmers who were beneficiary of electric fencing, I feel that it has a great advantage’, he added. He was not a beneficiary of solar electric fencing in the past and aspires to have one.
As a pilot programme, the first solar electric fencing in the park was installed in Jangbi in 2014 through fund support from WWF, benefiting 3 households. Jangbi is a socially backward community who were dependent on forests since time immemorial. Owing to its close proximity to the forests, the crop depredation incident was very high. The pilot project greatly helped the beneficiaries. ‘Without electric fencing, despite our regular guarding, we loss over 2/3rd of the crop but with the fencing, we could get 100% harvest’, Phurbala, a project beneficiary said with a smile. While electric fencing is labour intensive during installation, Phurbala said that there was no major problem once it is installed except for regular clearing of the fencing floor.
Owing to the success of the pilot phase, Ap Sonam and many other villagers sought the parks support to install solar electric fencing. The second phase of electric fencing is therefore delivered for the farmers of Jangbi with materials support from the World Bank project.
Including Ap Sonam, there are 10 beneficiaries whose field will be protected through electric fencing covering a distance of over 2 kms. The fence installation was commenced during the hands on training that was given to the park staffs.
An electric fencing at Ap Sonam’s field have been completed, he is confident that he would reap a bounty this season. Despite works like temple renovation, the farmers gave electric fencing completion the utmost priority so that they could protect their crops from wildlife. ‘This initiative from the park management will help us gain extra income by selling surplus crops. We can also concentrate on other works as we need not have to guard the crops at night’, Ap Sonam said with a sense of gratitude and glistening smile.
With similar materials support, the park will start the fencing program in Adha and Reti villages in the following months once they complete their irrigation. Such initiatives of integrated conservation are expected to build stewardship for conservation in the mindset of park residents. JSWNP is one of the conservation hotspots that connect the greater manas conservation landscape to the south and northern protected area complex to the north in B2C2 Landscape.
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