GUWAHATI: In a unique departure, the locals at a village in Assam village have started cultivating paddy, first for the jumbos and then for themselves, instead of fighting off the elephants. For the farmers, it is not easy to set aside land especially when farming is merely sustainable.
The concept is unprecedented in Assam and perhaps in the Northeast. An NGO, Hatibondhu, managed to convince the locals of Ronghang-Hatikhuli, a Karbi (tribe) village in central Assam’s Nagaon district, to grow crops for the elephants. They are being aided by the state’s forest and agriculture departments.
The villagers are also growing Napier Grass, commonly referred to as elephant grass. “We had received a proposal from Hatibondhu for the logistics. It requested us for paddy seeds. When I shared the NGO’s concept with the department of agriculture, it agreed to provide seeds. The villagers are now growing paddy on 200 bighas for the wild elephants,” Divisional Forest Officer Rajen Choudhary said.
“Once the elephants make their way back into the forest after the season, the locals will cultivate paddy for a second time on the same field for themselves,” he explained.Herds of elephants would often come down the Hatikhuli Reserve Forest and raid the village.
Growing the first crop for elephants was the brain-child of Pradip Kumar Bhuyan, director of Hati-bondhu, said Binod Dulu Bora of the NGO. “It is a temporary measure. Right at the elephant corridor, we have grown Napier Grass on 45 bighas of forest land which was earlier occupied by the villagers. The idea is to keep in place enough fodder for the elephants and curb the conflict,” Bora added.
“We’re cultivating paddy for the elephants. Once they have their fill, we will cultivate for ourselves. It’s the only way we can resolve the conflict,” a villager said.