Electric fencing holds hope against crop depredation in Zungye

With wild boars and deer damaging crops, the farmers at Zungye, Chhumy gewog in Bumthang has replanted buckwheat and potatoes among other crops, so that it will be not be late for harvest. Farmers have removed the old wooden fence and replaced it with a stronger one.

Ap Phurpa, 52, is among the few farmers in the village who is not deterred by the wild animals. “Some have given up cultivation and left their land fallow,” he said.

Zungye is settled close to lush green forest and is also home for many different wildlife species. Their closeness to the wild is giving them nightmares. “I could hardly reap half of what is cultivated in my fields this year,” said Phurpa, a farmer who has finally bought electric fencing materials to ward off the pigs. Including Phurba, around 34 farmers have bought the new technology.

But it is farmers like Aum Sangay who are paying the price. “Every year, crops are lost to wildlife despite sleepless nights of guarding the fields,” she said. She has made a hut near her field. “I don’t have an electric fence to defend from wildlife, so I need a torch while I move around,” she said.

Zungye has 128 households spread over five hamlets of Nangye, Yamthrak, Zungye, Trakkar and Nangar and is sparsely populated with about 150 people.

Chhumy Mangmi, Chundu Tshering said most of the chiwogs do not have electric fencing except for one patch of land, which received one on trial sometime back. “Despite the electric fence’s efficacy in combating human-wildlife conflict, villagers cannot afford it,” he said. “Loss of crops to wildlife is still a major problem here.”

According to the Gewog administration, around 8.5km (58 acres) of electric fencing has been constructed in Chhumig gewog but this covers only nine of the 334 households. The farm lands of over 312 households are not protected by electric fences.
According to reports maintained with the Gewog Agriculture Extension Office, about 114.5 acres of crops were destroyed by wildlife. Last year, some households in Zungye were left with almost nothing after wildlife damaged over 18 acres of potato and 12-15 acres of buckwheat in Zungye.

Agriculture Extension officer, Tshewang Lhamo said the crops are equally damaged in every village but since Zungye and Gyatsa among others have higher population than rest of the chiwogs, the villages in these two chiwogs are affected the most.

“The only solution to protect the agricultural crops is solar and electric fencing at the moment,” she said. She added that the forest officials are carrying out awareness campaigns in the gewogs.

Meanwhile, some farmers are worried that if all cannot afford electric fencing, wildlife attack on crops will exacerbate for those who cannot afford.

Dzongkhag Agriculture officer said that electric fences were given only for groups, communities’ far-flung farmlands and for households with acute labor shortage for coverage of the larger area in the chiwogs.

“We have tried out few control methods to reduce wild animal damage such as sensor sound and light when the pigs or any other animals enter the fields but this also did not work,” he said.

He added that from 2014, they started using electric and solar fencing, which was proved successful till date and many farmers want the electric fencing for themselves.

Kinley Yonten from Bumthang