Agriculture: Abi Maya Koirala, 51, has never felt so relaxed.
This is because today, she has an electric fence surrounding her fields and keeping the wild animals at bay.
It has been more than seven years since she last reaped anything from her almost three-acre farm. Let alone harvest for consumption, she could not even reap seeds for the next cultivation.
Abi Maya lives at the extreme end of lower Salamai village and her farm was frequently targeted by wild animals; mostly wild boars, monkeys and porcupines.
Wild animals damaged crops in the field but what disappointed her most was when animals also destroyed whatever little that she was able to harvest and store.
“The damage was disastrous, animals ate the little I could manage to collect from among the damaged crops,” she said.
However, she did not give up. She could not as the farm was her only means for an income. She also had to support her husband who is ill.
She had come close to calling it quits this year. Then came the electric fence.
If not attacked by wild animals, it is estimated that she can harvest at least 1,600kgs of rice from her two acre farm.
For the past seven years, she has never harvested more than 200kgs. “But I had no option but to continue farming despite losing 90 percent of my crops to wildlife,” she said.
The extent of crop damage was no less in Rabilal Dahal’s farm. In a field where more than 1,200kgs of rice was once harvested, he could barely harvest 500kgs in the past few years. Besides his rice crop being damaged, his maize plantations were completely wiped out by wild animals. “We’ve not been able to taste roasted corn for years,” he said. “We grow crops here; for the wildlife.”
He is hopeful that with the electric fencing, the farmers of lower Salamai will be able to harvest at least half of their crops.
The 46-year-old father of three added that nothing is more depressing than seeing crops being wiped out by wildlife. “It discourages us from working in the fields but we’ve no other means to live,” he said. “Our expectations are high with the electric fencing.”
Lower salamai Tshogpa KB Subba said that farmers residing on the lower edge of the village lost almost all their crops to wildlife annually. He added that the gewog was not able to do anything about it. Almost everyday he visited the fields to assess damage following attacks by the wildlife.
His reports were then submitted to the ministry but so far none of the farmers have received any compensation.
To encourage farmers to remain in the village and continue farming, the gewog allocated Nu 0.2 million this year from the Gewog Development Grant to place an electric fence around the chiwog, consisting of around 60 households.
All corners of the chiwog that are connected with the forest have been fenced. A total of 5km upward from the Chachey river and from near the Dunglagang border has been electric fenced. “I can’t assure it but I hope the fence will help keep wild animals away,” he said. “The fencing work will be completed in a week.”
Before the fence was electrified last week, around 32 farmers gathered to drive out all the wild animals from inside the village. The same activity will be pursued at regular intervals.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang