Female farmers guard their crops against wild boars in Bjemina

It is drizzling and wet in Bjemina in Gidakom, Thimphu. Aum Dema, 32, wears her rain-coat, gumboots and a broad-brimmed hat for protection against the rain. Aum Dema is ready for the night.

She is not going far, but to her guardhouse in the middle of her paddy field. Wild boars have been ravaging her crops and Dema wants to guard them. The paddy would be ready for harvest in the next two months.

Dema is one of the 12 women in Gidakom from among 14 households which depend on farming for their livelihood. In total, there are 29 households. But in Gidakom, a majority of farmers are women and they are the ones who shoulder the responsibility to guard their fields at night.

The husbands of these female farmers are mostly truckers who work in the Bjemina mines.

“The wild boars will be here by 10 pm,” she says, as she takes a cup of tea.

Dema is vigilant. The pests may come anytime now. She shouts into the night. When her two dogs bark, it’s a signal that she should be more alert.
At this time of the year, farmers in Gidakom and many others across the country are guarding their fields against wild animals. Wild boars are proving to be a menace, and farmers are spending sleepless nights guarding their fast ripening crop.

According to Dema, a sounder of wild boars frequently visit their field every night. Desperate, the farmers are trying every way to chase them away.

The farmers have tried spreading old worn out sacks across their field, lighting fires, and banging empty containers but these have not been very successful.

Another farmer, Yangzom, 38, is inspecting her fields in the morning. She is in for a huge disappointment. The wild boars have damaged her fields the previous night, since she couldn’t keep guard.

“I am having a tough time chasing away the wild animals. I have done everything I could. Paddy is our main source of livelihood,” said Yangzom adding she spends sleepless nights chasing away wild boars but despite that, they still damage the  crops.

Some of the farmers have given up and left their fields fallow.

One of the farmers, Aum Dago, said that a majority of the people have stopped working in their fields. “Although we can grow almost anything here, we cannot reap everything we cultivate. We lose half of our crops to wild animals every year,” she said.

She added that the paddy is ripening after two to three months and soon they will be harvested. Then only will the farmers get to sleep at night, without worrying about the wild boars attacking their crop, she said.

Meanwhile, people of Bjemina say wild boars destroying their paddy, maize and potatoes is not a new issue. They are experiencing more attacks this year. “This year is earth female pig year, so pigs celebrate their meals every night,” Dema jokes.   

Meanwhile, some of the farmers have used electric fencing but they say that their fields are not protected efficiently. “With paddy fields closer to the forest, wild boars enter the field any time of the night.”

“The attacks have increased this year,” said Yangzom, who added that if they are late for an hour to guard the field, they can see a mess made of the paddy. “It is easier to chase one to two boars but difficult when they come in groups.”

The Agriculture Extension Officer, Thuji Penjor, said there were reports of boar attacks and most farmers use electric fencing but they fail to maintain the fencing monthly.

He said they have provided a kilometer of electric fencing to farmers who have lost most of their crops last year. But some farmers who share boundaries with others are not agreeing to share cost.

Thuji Penjor said that a plan to install electric fencing for all the farmers was in the offing but the farmers have not decided as yet. “We are creating awareness on electric fencing and we also warn farmers who are not taking care of their fence,” he said. 

Some of the farmers still do not use electric fencing but Thuji Penjor said that the gewog lacks budget right now to provide it.

Kinley Yonten from Bjemina / T.phu