Man-animal conflicts often end with death- on both man or animal side, or destruction of property and habitat. However, an innovative move by a Non-Governmental Organisation “Hatibondhu” has not only reduced the conflict but also paved the way to a mutually benefitted relationship among the locals and the wild pachyderms.
Spearheaded by Binod Dulu Borah and Meghna Mayur Hazarika and supported by Pradeep Bhuyan, the initiative comprises a cluster of villages in central Assam’s Nagaon district- Ronghang-Hatikhuli area. This unique initiative has found a way of keeping crop-raiding elephants off their crops by setting aside land to create a meal zone for them.
Entitled as ‘Jumbo Kheti,’ the designated area of 200 bighas of the rice crop and 400 bighas of other crops including elephant apple, jackfruit, banana plants, etc., acts as a last line of mealy-defense for wild elephants that often venture out to human habitat and cultivations.
These regular ventures have earlier resulted in the killing of the wild elephants either by electrocution via illegal electric fences or by spears and arrows. The ‘Jumbo Kheti’ however, acts as a friendly-barrier for the wild elephants who can have their fill of fresh goodies without the need to venture deep into human habitats and destroy the cultivation.
The success of the experiment has led to the villages join in the action, including forest department officials who chipped in to provide solar electric fences around the crop area.
“Elephants have been coming to the fields at night but we could not capture their videos. But, for the past couple of days elephants have been coming during the daytime too, and we have been able to feed them and capture videos at the same time. It feels good that the mission that we took up has been successful to a certain extent. Now villagers have been able to cultivate 70% of their harvest,” said Hazarika.