The festival season heralds a busy period for the farmers. In fact, for the farmers, the tshechu offers a brief break from the farm drudgery and some time to prepare for the most important period in their work cycle.
Refreshed and rejuvenated from the break, they look forward to the harvest season busy it may be, as it is a period to reap the fruit of a yearlong’s hard work. Unfortunately, if not all farmers get to witness the tschecu, not all of them get to reap the full harvest too. Some would be returning to the makeshift huts built in the orchards and fields to guard their crop.
Every year, farmers from Sipsu to Bangtar, Trashiyangtse to Haa lose a major share to predation. The issue is not new. But there seems to be some urgency now. Records maintained with the agriculture department show alarming figures. In two years, farmers across the country have lost about 7,500 truckloads of crops to the wild. Out of that, about 1,700 truckloads were paddy, our staple diet, that we heavily dependent on imports for.
There also seem to be some urgency within the department, who presented the reported to the government, to curb this problem. This is good because saving yields, after a lot of efforts are put in should be a priority.
Given the strict conservation policy, we are not surprised that wild animals are hitting Bhutanese villages. There are other factors like fallow fields turning into forest and bringing wild animals closer. We have settled for some effective measures after years of scratching our heads. The electric fencing seems to be a big hit among farmers and an approach acceptable to both conservationists and farmers.
But electric fences are expensive and how we get that to farmers is a big question. If it is an effective solution, heavy investments will be justified because a top priority of the government is to substitute imports of food that we can grow. It will reduce the dependence on basic food items that are imported in the tonnes. It may not straighten the imbalance in trade, but will surely lead to other benefits like employment, improved local produce and therefore improved rural livelihood.
The issue of human wildlife conflict is not new. It is shame that we are unable to find a good solution. Farmers are desperate. They even vote in candidates who promise to solve the issue.
The demand is not unreasonable, they are asking for government’s help to reap what they sow.