As wild animals continue to attack crops, people in the villages are resorting to dangerous innovations to keep the marauding beasts at bay.
It was reported recently that farmers in the villages of Trashigang are making use of live electric fencing without power energiser to protect their crops from wild animals. It could not be very different in many other dzongkhags. For farmers, it is a desperate measure because their income and livelihood depend vastly on the crops they grow and harvest.
Farmers can be, as we are aware it is done, threatened with orders and circulars to discourage them from using live electric fencing around their fields, but there is only so much they can do without a better alternative. As long as they need to eat from their fields, farmers will continue to rely on such disturbingly unsafe and fatal measures.
Imposing a penalty of Nu 5,000 on the head of a person found guilty of using live electric connections to protect his fields from wild animals is, indeed, appallingly inane and disgraceful. A human life cannot be reduced to the value of a few thousand ngultrums.
Dzongkhag Tshogdus had to discuss the issue because people in the villages have died due to live electric fences. What is worrying is that human-wildlife conflict has risen to such levels in the far off villages that farmers hide the cause of human death due to their blundering ingenuity.
Villagers may use live wires at night to protect their fields and remove them by morning, but that in no way minimises the risk to humans.
Farmers say that electric fencing powered by solar energy is often not effective to keep away wild animals from their fields. And without government-approved electric fencing, they are left to defend their crops the way they are compelled to.
There is an urgent need for the government to intervene. If farmers cannot pay for electric fencing, the government should look at subsidising the cost to the level that it becomes affordable for farmers.
Leaving the farmers to contend with human-wildlife conflict on their own could have a serious impact on the nation’s agriculture productivity and food security.