Rural: Instead of waiting for the government’s help, two villagers from Phuntshothang village built their own solar fence to combat wild elephants destroying their crops.

The village is surrounded by a thick forest from which herds of elephants or wildboars often attack the village’s cash crops like paddy and betel nut. Every year, much of the crops are lost.

The villagers have been asking the government for a solar fence for several years but to no avail.

Ratna Bahadhur Khadal, 35 and Gomthay Rai, 60, decided to take matters into their own hands to protect their only source of income.

Spending more than Nu 100,000, the two neighbours installed a solar fence in September, last year. Other villagers opted not to invest in solar fences.

The two installed a solar fence that measures eight kilometres and covers more than three acres of their land.

The government did not provide raw materials, subsidies or cash assistance, but agriculture officials did provide hands-on-training.

The two said they could not afford to guard their fields the traditional way where they stay guard all night and chase away elephants using loud sounds.

The villagers depend on paddy and they earn an average of about Nu 35,000 a year but they also lose more than 50 percent of the harvest.

Gomthay Rai said they were really in need of the fence because their houses are located right next to the forest and are always the first ones to get attacked by the elephants or wild boars.

“We thought waiting for government would mean waiting forever as they keep saying this and that about budget, but this doesn’t mean we should be always spoon fed,” he said. “This is why we thought maybe we should try something different this time and be independent.”

Just as they both were trying to explore options on how to install the fence they were informed that interested villagers could attend a seven-day training on solar fence installation. They grabbed the opportunity and requested other villagers to attend the training as well.

But after the first day, villagers showed disinterest and left the training except for Gomthay and Ratna who attended the full course.

“The fence has been helpful to us after its installation but we still need to buy and install a better quality battery,” Gomthay Rai said. “We still guard the field at night because we are used to the old lifestyle but now we feel quite relieved to keep the house locked because earlier at least one family member had to stay back to look after the field.”

They said they are ready to help other villagers if interested.

“We’ve targeted the fence to last for at least ten years,” said Gomthay Rai.

Gewog agriculture extension officer Wangchuk said the two have set an example and have become a source of motivation for other villagers because the benefits of the fence are being noticed.

“Although, nobody has come forward, people do ask about their fence and possibilities,” said Wangchuk. “We were quite impressed when we saw how perfect these two farmers had constructed the fence, many should learn from them.”

Meanwhile, both Ratna and Gomthay have recently started receiving lots of guests to see their fence, including from other villages.

Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupcholing