For generations, our lives have been intricately woven with the rhythms of the land, cultivating crops and tending to livestock with reverence for the earth that sustains us. In recent years, however, a shadow has fallen over our fields and forests—the shadow of conservation.

Bhutan has long been hailed as a leader of conservation success. Our commitment to preserving nature’s bounty has earned us many accolades and admiration from around the world. And, indeed, we take pride in the flourishing tiger population and the recent hosting of a prestigious tiger conference on our soil. But amidst the celebrations and accolades, a stark reality stares us in the face—the increasing human-wildlife conflicts that threaten to tear at the fabric of our existence.

For the farmers of Bhutan, this dilemma is not merely a matter of policy or politics. It is a matter of survival. Each day, as our farmers till their fields and tend to their crops, they must contend with the ever-present threat of marauding wildlife.

Tigers, elephants, and other creatures wander into the villages and fields in search of food and shelter, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Crops are trampled, livestock attacked, and livelihoods put at risk. In the face of such adversity, we are left to wonder—who are we saving, the tiger or the people?

The answer, we believe, lies not in choosing one over the other, but in finding a way to coexist harmoniously with our wildlife brethren. For we recognise the intrinsic value of these majestic creatures and the vital role they play in maintaining the delicate balance of our ecosystems.

But we also know the importance of safeguarding our agricultural heritage and ensuring the well-being of our farming communities.

To achieve this delicate balance, we must embrace a pragmatic approach that honours both conservation and agriculture. This means implementing strategies that protect wildlife while also safeguarding our crops and livestock.

It means engaging with local communities and empowering them to take ownership of conservation efforts. It also means forging partnerships between farmers, conservationists, and policymakers to find innovative solutions to the challenges we face.

One such solution lies in the concept of wildlife-friendly farming practices. By implementing measures such as predator-proof fencing, crop diversification, and habitat restoration, we can minimise human-wildlife conflicts while also promoting sustainable agriculture.

By providing incentives for wildlife-friendly practices and compensating farmers for crop damage, we can ensure that conservation efforts benefit both wildlife and people.

But perhaps the most crucial element of this equation is education. We must educate our farmers about the importance of conservation and empower them to become stewards of the land. By instilling a sense of pride and responsibility in our farming communities, we can ensure that they are fully invested in the conservation efforts that are so vital to our collective future.

In the end, the path forward may be long and challenging, but we are confident that by working together, we can find a way to navigate the complex terrain of Bhutan’s conservation dilemma.

We are stewards of the land, guardians of the land’s treasures, and custodians of its future. And it is our duty, our privilege, and our honour to ensure that both tigers and people thrive in this sacred land we call home.

This conference gives us some hope.