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The damaged paddy in Singeygang
The damaged paddy in Singeygang

Elephants compel farmers to leave their fields fallow in Sipsu

On the morning of August 31, a paddy field in Singeygang (Hangay), Tashichhoeling, Samtse village saw the wrath of an elephant, the first this year.

Farmers said this is quite early as there is almost two months’ time to harvest paddy in Tashichhoeling. However, four of the 10 elephant entry points in Singeygang that were blocked in 2017 have fallen apart.

A farmer, Dhanya Prasad Sharma said the blockage lasted for just three months.

“We had excavated and placed stones to block the entrances,” he said. “I think we need to make the walls concrete.”

However, other six walls are still protecting elephants from entering the village, Dhanya Prasad Sharma said.

Gauri Shankar, another Singeygang resident said there are hundreds of acres of fallow land today. “It is all because of the elephants,” he said.

Most the fallow land, he said are along a river and have potential for paddy cultivation. About 80 percent of the land has access to use farm tractor, he added.

Records with the gewog office show that there are about 1,200 acres of paddy field in Tashichhoeling. However, only few cultivate paddy.

Tashichhoeling gup Samir Giri said more than half of the paddy field is left fallow today.

“We are unable to protect the hard work of the people in Tashichhoeling,” he said. “Elephants destroy everything.”

Samir Giri also said that elephants and human-wildlife conflict have caused many to migrate to urban areas looking for jobs in industries and other sectors. “The government is looking at options after options but none of the plans have succeeded,” gup Samir Giri said.

As people leave the land fallow and migrate, the land grows into forests, eventually becoming hideouts for elephants. Many farmers also say that turning Jamtsholing (Saansbotey), an elephant corridor, to a green zone was a major problem. Elephants hide in this area, people said.

Also, people across the border use hand-made guns and fireworks to chase the elephants from their fields. The electric fencing is reported to be better across the border. Elephants chased from across the border end up in Tashichhoeling.

“Elephants have affected whole of Tashichhoeling,” gup Samir Giri said, adding that even Dangling, a higher elevation area was affected.

The issue has come up just as political parties and candidates are out campaigning. Candidates are pledging electric fences to save paddy and other crops from wild animals and voters are all ears.

In 2017-2018, Tashichhoeling farmers just cultivated about 400 acres of paddy lands, which constitute just 33 percent of the total cultivable land.

“This is an increase from 300 acres in 2016-2017,” gewog RNR official Ngawang Dorji.

He said that an acre of paddy land would generate 1,150kg of paddy in Tashichhoeling.

Residents attribute this increase to the 14 elephant entries that were blocked in 2017.

In the case of dry land, an acre could cultivate about 900kg of corn, he added. Tashichhoeling  has about 980 acres of dry land. Cultivation and harvest in these fields keep on fluctuating but it has decreased most of the times, according to the farmers.

Although the government distributes high quality seeds and saplings, farmers say they are left fighting a losing battle against elephants and other wild animals.

Rajesh Rai | Sipsu

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