Locals participate in a discussion program on human-wildlife conflict in Banepal Rural Municipality-3, in this recent picture. Photo Courtesy: Madhusudan Guruagain/Republica
BANEPA, April 30: Gokul Bajagain, a farmer from Kakre village of Banepa, regrets his decade-old decision to conserve the forest. Back then, forest conservation felt like a very wise act. But now the number of wild animals in the forest have proliferated that the same forest has become a source of worry to him. , and he has no means to address the problem.
“In those days, the concept of community forest sounded brilliant. It looked beneficial from every angle. So we all started conserving our community forest. With the growth of the forest, the number of wild animals also started growing. Now, these wild animals have become a huge challenge for us,” said Bajagain. “Wild boars have left us extremely worried.”
Though there are other animals too which bother Bajagain, boars have excessively destroyed his crops of late. Since last few years, boars from the forests have ‘made his life hell’.
Another farmer from the same location, Rameshwor Bajagain also lamented the animal menace. Boars are not going to let farmers live or work, he remarked.
Rameshwar is a potato farmer. But this time there are no potatoes left on his farm to harvest. “Everything is ruined. They have left nothing to harvest,” he lamented.
A few weeks ago, boars stormed into his potato farms and wrecked it. He has given up the hope that potatoes which were growing pretty well under his intensive care are going to yield anything. “Not one or two, but a herd of boars marched into the farm and ruined it,” he said.
Farmers in Banepa feel helpless. They have no idea how to tackle the problem of wild animals entering their farms and destroying it within some hours.
“We work for months on farms cultivating crops and vegetables. But it takes just a day for the wild animals to destroy everything,” said Rameshwar.
Rameshwar’s potato field is spread in 22 ropanis of land, and the past years, he used to earn well for his family by harvesting it. But since the past few years, he has not been able to reap a good harvest due to the boars.
“Now I am in a dilemma whether or not to continue with potato farming. Had those animals not been there, potato farming is the best option here. The soil suits it a lot,” he said.
Rameshwar cultivates potato both during summer and winter. Doing it both seasons should have made him a rich man by now. “I have been a farmer for decades. I learnt to do profitable farming later. But due to such animals, my business got hit, or else I would have made enough money by now,” he noted.
According to Saraswati Ghorasaini, deers, leopard and porcupine have also been affecting the farmers. “I had some 1500 plants of cucumber on my farm. But porcupines destroyed them all. Hearing that porcupines hide in caves, we tried to chase them away through smoke, but they have not stopped bothering us,” she said. The farmer from Devitar of Dhulikhel, says that it is not in the hands of farmers to stop wild animal interference.
Animal-human conflict is not limited to farmers’ families. Even schools have complained that some students sleep in their classroom. Students whose parents remain active all night shooing away wild animals from their farms have not been able to provide the environment for sound sleep at home, school authorities said.
“Parents are worried about wild animals. They patrol their farms at night. Because of that children’s sleeping time is being affected. Sometimes even the students go with their parents. As such they feel sleepy in their classroom,” said Tul Prasad Dahal, principal of Nandadevi Basic School, Banepa.
An officer at Division Forest Office of Banepa, Ram Kumar Bhandari, linked the issue with the devastating earthquake of 2015. He said that after the earthquake people shifted to lower parts from the mountain and some of these houses are near the forests.
“The settlements were taken towards the forest. Similarly, they started farming near the forest in the lower plains. Thus, this conflict between wildlife and humans have become intense,” he explained. However, he admitted that the population of wild animals in the forest area has grown of late. “Yes, there are a huge number of boars and other wild animals.”
Bhandari, who is a graduate in human-wildlife conflict management, said that the solution to the situation is better supervision, fencing and if needed human resettlement, he suggests. He added that the division office is studying the loss and will soon respond to people’s application. Farmers have filed application demanding compensation for their loss.