The farmers have been losing crops to wild life despite guarding their fields overnight 

Agriculture: As the potato cultivation season draws closer, villagers of Ura in Bumthang are beginning to prepare their fields for potato cultivation in March.

Sounds of tractors drown out the songs of birds as villagers prepare their farmlands.

“People have begun tilling their fields, which were hardened by the cold winter frost,” Tashi Peljor from Pangkhar said. “Everyone is busy.”

This year, the winter was rewarding. It snowed twice and hopes are high for a bountiful harvest in the fall.

But crop depredation by wild animals remains a concern. The villagers will experience sleepless nights over a five-month period, guarding their potatoes from the wild life.

“We have to guard the fields from the day the seeds are sown to the end of the harvest or else the wild animals wouldn’t spare anything for us,” Gyetsa tshogpa, Chundu Tshering said.

“Gyetsa still doesn’t have an electric fence to protect the fields save for one patch of land, which received one on trial sometime back,” the tshogpa said. Despite the electric fence’s efficacy in combating human-wildlife conflict, villagers cannot afford it.

Around 30km of electric fence has been constructed in Bumthang but this covers only 194 of the 1,544 households. The farmlands of over 1,350 households are not protected by electric fences.

“Loss of crops to wildlife is still a major problem for farmers,” Chundu Tshering said.

Last year some households in Gyetsa were left with almost nothing after wild boars ravaged over seven acres of barley. In Ura, wild animals damaged potato and buckwheat fields.

“Every year crops are lost to wildlife despite guarding the fields sleeplessly every night,” Chundu Tshering said. He added that this occurs even after some opt to guard the fields rather than take care of the sick in their family. He said it is a depressing situation.

Records show crop damage from wildlife amounting to over 754 truckloads across the country from July 2013 to June 2015.

Farmers are urging the government to subsidize electric fencing.

Chundu Tshering said that way the electric fence can still benefit those who cannot afford it.

“Right now because the fields are situated in same area if someone in the village couldn’t afford everyone has to drop the plan of electric fence as its costly for a handful to bear the expenses,” Chundu Tshering said.

In absence of budget for electric fence in the 11th Plan, Ura gup, Dorji Wangchuk said the fencing must be incorporated in the annual plans.

“Until now in Ura, electric fences were issued either with funding from projects or were procured by re-appropriating funds from other activities or from gewog development grant,” he said.

The dzongkhag meanwhile is increasing the span of electric fence by 32km in June through funds from the commodity programme to reduce human wildlife conflict and reclaim the fallowing lands.

“Electric fences were given only for groups, communities, far flung farmlands and for households with acute labour shortage for coverage of larger area,” dzongkhag agriculture office (DAO), Gaylong said.

From this year the dzongkhag will fund only energizer, solar panel, controller and Gavanised Iron wire but farmers would have to buy nails and polythene pipes on their own, he said.

Gaylong also said plans to incorporate electric fence in annual and FYP plans is being deliberated. “Avenues to replace wooden posts with non-wood posts are also being explored to reduce tree felling,” the DAO said.

Tempa Wangdi, Ura