Tashicholing and Namgaycholing gewogs under Samste continue to report cases of major human-wildlife conflict. The gewogs has 5 chiwogs each with more than 800 households together. Many villagers have left their farmlands fallow due to dismal compensation schemes for damaged and lost crops.
50 percent of the total population in Tashicholing gewog has left farming. And those still trying to farm lose substantial amount of crops to wildlife every year.
Tashicholing Gup, Samir Giri, said Jamtsholing, a green zone, in the gewog falls under a wildlife corridor where wild elephants migrate. It is near the boundary of Jaltapara National Park, India. The Gup said the elephant migration has become a huge problem for the people in the gewog.
He said, “We have got a fertile land to harvest all kinds of horticulture products and different varieties of winter vegetables. Since we get heavy rainfall in monsoon, we get good quality of rice too.” However, when the harvest time comes, the wild elephants and boars damage 50 percent of the crops. This is forcing the villagers to abandon farming and migrate to urban areas, he said.
“We are helpless at times. People take loans to do the farming and when their hard work and investment go in vain, they come and question us, since we are the one to encourage them into farming,” he added.
If it is not the wild elephants then it is surly the wild boars that inevitably get to the crops. “In the past, people in gewog trapped and killed the wild boars in the fields. They took the meat of the boars without informing forestry officials thinking it would be okay since the boars were killed in their own fields. But the forestry officials fined them. Which is why people are hesitant to take steps in guarding their crops from wild animals,” he added.
He added that the forest rules and regulations are stringent. He said that government effort and money is wasted on encouraging farming, especially when there are no concrete steps to controlling the wildlife.
“Government has initiated an electric fencing, but what to do with the fencing when they cannot secure electricity during terrible weather?” the Gup questioned. He said lightning and thunderstorm is prevalent in the gewog.
“Within one hour of darkness, the electric fencing would be broken and wild boars would have left the field already damaging all the crops. This way electric fencing has no use,” he added.
In the olden days, people used various handmade weapons to chase away the wild elephant, he said, adding that those practices don’t exist anymore, which is why the wild elephants enter the area.
Tashicholing Gup said the gewog has proposed for the construction of three layers of protection against the wildlife. The first layer being a stonewall, then a moat and finally an electric fencing. They have yet to hear back from the government.
Meanwhile, Namgaycholing Gup Ratna Bdr. Rai said wild elephants attacking crops is rare in the gewog. Instead it is the wild boars that attack 50 percent of the crops every year.
He said, “This maybe the reason for having a number of fallow lands in villages. The farmers put in so much effort and when it’s time for harvesting, they are left broken by the damage caused.”
He also said that villagers show less interest in farming now. Even the electric fencing installed is not used effectively since they have to change the poles every season. They use the fencing for a few seasons and then let it go useless, he added.
Farming on the fertile land would have been worth the effort if the villagers did not have the human-wildlife conflict. “Due to wildlife conflict they leave their land and migrate. People who produce today is very minimal and that also by guarding their crops from wildlife day and night”, the Gup added. He also said that the farmers are hesitant to report the crop damage as the compensation is hardly worth it.
The planning officer of Samtse, Tashi, said reports of house and property loss caused by wild elephants come to notice. There has been no report of loss of lives caused by the human-wildlife conflict in the dzongkhag. He said, “From our side, to mitigate the impact, we install electric fencing and that is helping, though not 100 percent due to poor management by the people. We are planning to plant cactus plants along the corridors so to prevent elephants from entering our area.”