In the last eight years, about 2,773kms of electric fencing was installed across the country to prevent wildlife from damaging crops, according to officials from National Plant Protection Centre (NPPC).
Officials say that the electric fencing system (EFS) was installed in about 15,041 households between 2009 and 2017.
Records with NPPC show that the electric fencing covered about 11,765 acres of wetland and about 19,899 acres of dry land.
NPPC’s senior agriculture officer, Sangay Dorji, said farmers spent about three months a year to guard their crops.
“With electric fencing, farmers need not guard the crops. They could focus their time on other income-generating activities. They also have more time for their family,” he said.
Sangay Dorji, however, said there are several challenges associated with electric fencing.
He said design-specific electric fencing is required for effective results. “Having correct technical design of the electric fencing installed is a challenge. EFS targeting specific animals is important so that crops can be protected from the kind of animal found within an area.”
For instance, he said that electric fences installed to protect crops from wild boars set up on straight poles whereas for elephants, the poles have to be tilted 45 degrees.
“Most people seem to have the idea that electric fencing is installed to block wild animals. With this kind of notion, they make double wires which are not required.”
Trongsa has the highest coverage with about 272kms of electric fencing whereas Samtse and Lhuentse have the lowest with 51.8km and 51.23km respectively.
To scale up EFS technology, a guideline for electric fencing was drawn in 2015. It is a non-fatal method to guide crops against wild animals.
It was learnt that on an average, a kilometre of electric fencing with wooden poles costs about Nu 35, 000.
Sangay Dorji said that once EFS is installed in a community, its members or individuals do not take ownership of the system. “They let grass grow near fences and do not repair damaged poles.”
He said lack of cooperation among community members is one of the reasons for poor management of electric fencing.
Conducting pre-survey is important when installing electric fencing, he said. “To know how much area the fence should cover, surveys are crucial.”
Sangay Dorji said people go on installing electric fences that sometimes result in the intrusion of forest areas. “As the area gets bigger, it becomes difficult to monitor.”
A principal researcher with Mongar’s Agriculture Research Development and Centre (ARDC), Tshering Penjor, said damage to crops was a big issue at the national level. “There was no solution for the problem then.”
He said electric fencing was put on trial in 2006 at Phosorong in Mongar. “The trial covered 300 meters for a household. It was successful.”
However, he said the fencing was formally installed in 2013. NPPC’s plant protection supervisor, Ngedup Dorji, said that extension officers are trained on the technical and implementation aspects of the EFS. “These officers, in turn, educate the farmers.”
NPPC last trained Bumthang’s extension officers in 2017.