By Abhik Palit
In biodiversity rich areas, farmers often suffer huge losses due to crop depredation by wildlife. In areas where the farmers have no alternative sources of livelihood, crop loss can lead to deterioration in income and severe livelihood insecurity, especially for subsistence farmers, whereas those with alternate avenues of income generation can adopt practices which can bring about a change in land use.
Solar powered electric fencing is an effective and inexpensive mechanism which can help solve the problem of crop depredation. WWF India has also implemented community fencing in several of its landscapes and has often been lauded for its efforts by local communities and government agencies alike. One such initiative was undertaken in Lumpo Village in Zemithang circle in the Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh in May 2018. The solar fence here has been operating successfully and is maintained by the CCA management committee with the administrative assistance of the Gaon Burah (village head), the leader of the village. The fencing effort has been appreciated by many visitors to the village, including members of the agriculture department, after evaluating the solar fence, decided to replicate the model in another village suffering from a high degree of crop depredation.
The village of Khremu is situated at a distance of approximately 10 km from the Tawang town. It is a small village comprising of nearly a hundred households relying on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. Paddy and maize are the two crops which are generally cultivated in their farms. However, the villagers faced a high degree of crop depredation, particularly due to wild boars, which lead to substantial losses to farmers. Having tried a variety of methods to prevent these losses, many villagers had begun to move away from farming, devoting their energies to casual and semi-skilled labour related livelihoods. Seeing these circumstances, the Department of Agriculture proposed to fence the largest continuous patch of Khremu’s farmland. The WWF India team was brought in as technical consultant for the project to guide and oversee the installation of the fence.
Led by village leaders such as the Gaon Burah and the Aanchal Samiti Member (ASM), the local community members collectively participated in the activity. The first task for the team was the exact demarcation of the path of the fence and the clearing of any bushes, grass or shrubbery which might touch the fence and lead to leakages in the voltage. The team took a round of the entire plot and decided the exact route through which the fence would run. Following this, the villagers cleared approximately three feet wide path along the route and planted the posts which would support the fence. Work was simultaneously being done to tie the insulators to these posts. Displaying remarkable team work and cooperation, the people of Khremu worked tirelessly to clear the ground, plant the posts and draw the wire. On the final day, the battery, energiser and solar plate were set up and a group of villagers who were nominated by the Gaon Burah and Anchal Samiti Member were trained in important aspects of fence maintenance and repair.
The farmland of a total of 83 beneficiary households falls within the plot which has been fenced. The WWF India team organised a short session with the village leaders and some of the other villagers on the fence management procedures, the precautions to be taken and about instituting a participatory system for maintenance. Following this, the fence was handed over to the community and the WWF India team departed.
Since the installation of the fence in March, the communities have informed that there is a reduction in crop damage by wild animals particularly during the agricultural season. Speaking to Mr. Sonam Tashi, the ASM of the village, in early September, he reported that wild animals such as wild boar have stopped entering their farms and are instead returning back to the forest from the perimeter of the fence. Speaking to Mr. Sonam Tashi, the ASM of the village, in early September, he reported that wild animals have stopped entering their farms and are instead returning back to the forest from the perimeter of the fence. Having seen the utility of the fence and understanding the importance of maintaining it, the villagers have appointed two men from the village, Mr. Sonam and Mr. Lobsang to ensure the continuous maintenance and operation of the fence.
The fencing effort has been appreciated by many visitors to the village, including members of the agriculture department who, after evaluating the solar fence, decided to replicate the model in yet another village suffering from a high degree of crop depredation.
Securing farmlands through solar fencing can bolster the agricultural production of farmers and can prevent them from resorting to alternate forms of livelihoods which may lead to additional pressures in areas of high conservation value.
Photos Credit: Abhik Palit
The initiative is being implemented as part of our partnership with SONY India.