The wildlife menace is causing them huge losses in yield, farmers say

LG: The fields are golden and almost ready for harvest. In a few weeks, villagers in Damji, Barsha, Khailo and Panikong of Khamae gewog, Gasa will swarm the fields to reap the yield of their year-long hard work.

However, before it comes to that there is an urgent issue at hand. As the sun sets, farmers in these villages except for Khailo, leave their homes instead of returning and patiently stand guard in the fields every night.

“After dusk, we can’t even go home to eat dinner and stand down our guard otherwise, the wild boars will come in hoards and eat and flatten our paddy,” a farmer who lost about 50kg of paddy,” Kinzang Lhamo said.

Pem from Chazhi village said the wild boar attacks have been increasing over the past few years.

“The boars disappeared for a long time after the Punakha-Gasa road construction, but they’ve been plaguing us increasingly for the past few years,” the mother of three said.

The human wildlife conflict extends beyond Khamae gewog to Khatoe; both the gewogs are within the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park.

Another problem with these gewogs is that the settlements are scattered. Most houses are secluded surrounded by fields. For villagers to avail of the subsidised electric fencing materials, at least five households are required. So most of the villagers could not install electric fences.

In some clustered villages, villagers having fields in the centre don’t want anything to do with electric fencing as their fields are not affected by wildlife.

Local government leader candidates are promising to solve these problems if they are elected. Some are even promising to give electric fences to individual households.

Villagers such as Pem and her sister are frustrated and would not mind voting for someone who can get them the electric fence.

Barsha Panikong, where the problem is severe, has the second most number of voters. In Khatoe gewog people have been asking for the fence for sometime now.

LG leader contestants are trying to convince people that each of them can bring them the fence even if it required breaking rules or making exceptions.

The race is intensifying as the poll day draws closer. The contestants are going for a second round of door-to-door campaigning not even sparing a single household.

Most of the farmers are in the fields tending to their crops leaving their homes under lock and key. Whoever can deliver them the fence could win the next LG elections, farmers said.

“The fence means so much to us,” a farmer from Khamae, Gembo said.

Khalo village in Khamae has secured their fields with electric fencing and villagers don’t guard their fields at night anymore. Their success has fueled the demand from other villages.

Farmers from nearby villages say the electric fencing at Khailo has diverted the wild boars to their fields.

The animals dig up fields and crush paddy stalk as they roll in the fields. Villagers tried to salvage whatever is possible but not much can be done, they said.

Tshering Palden | Gasa 

Supported by Bhutan Media Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation