Despite two elephants that continue to raid their fields

Harvest: The villagers of Gangtokha (Daragaon) in Nichula gewog, Lhamoizingkha, Dagana are busy these days. They have a bumper millet harvest this year.

They harvest the cereal during the day and spend the nights warding off elephants.

While it is a daunting task fighting off the elephants, there is much excitement about the harvest. Villagers will have a lot of millet this year to brew their local beer this winter.

One of the Gangtokha residents, Bhakta Bahadur Mongar said that growing millet is a part of their culture. “In Lhamoizingkha this culture does not exist,” he said, adding that millet is mostly grown in Gangtokha.

Some villagers of Karmaling also grow millet, Bhakta Bahadur Mongar said, explaining that the crop is the second most important cereal after rice in Nichula. Maize is the other crop grown.

However, villagers said that growing millet is easier than other crops and more affordable. It does not require weeding and the same level of care needed for maize.

Millet cultivation also does not need irrigation and the cereal fetches better prices than paddy, villagers said.

However, the people of Gangtokha have not tried going commercial with this cereal. They make flour out of the cereal mostly to be used for brewing their local beer.

Meanwhile, the villagers of Gangtokha have been battling two elephants that have been raiding their fields for more than a week now.

Many farmers in Nichula and from other villages such as Bichgaon, Alley and Katarey have given up millet farming because of wildlife encroachment.

“People still grow millet but not as much as some years ago,” a Bichgaon resident Kul Bahadur Subba said, adding that wild boar and deer are the main problems.

With the gewog coming under the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, there is hope that millet cultivation will bounce back.

The millet harvest time is also an opportunity for the community to get together and celebrate. Although most villagers are occupied with their own farms, most do make an effort to help others in handpicking the cereal.

However, most of the Gangtokha farmers have not yet harvested their millet. With the two elephants rampaging the fields every night, concerns are growing.

Budhiman Rai, another Gangtokha resident said his millet field has not been touched yet. “The yield is better this year and I am worried,” he said yesterday.

He added that his family is busy harvesting paddy these days. “Work on my paddy is finished, now I will be able to focus on the millet.”

Despite knowing that the elephants are still inside the electric fence’s boundary, Gangtokha tshogpa Khadka Bahadur Chhetri said that people are continuing to harvest their paddy and millet.

“They have no time to come together at this juncture to chase the elephants,” the tshogpa said.

The tshogpa also said that the villagers have planned to conduct a meeting once their harvest is over. Strategies to remove the animals would then be discussed.

The two elephants in Gangtokha, meanwhile, have become healthy, villagers said. Officials of the Farm Machinery Centre Ltd (FMCL) of the agriculture ministry, which was recently initiated to farm 200 acres of government land in the area, are also facing a difficult time. The centre has lost many acres of paddy and maize to the elephants.

Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha