GUWAHATI: Chiniram Rabha suffered for too long as raiding wild elephants had destroyed his standing crops. He has now got a solution – black pepper.
He discovered that he could make up for the loss by growing black pepper alongside areca nut trees. The wild jumbos come down the hills in Assam’s Kamrup (rural) district bordering Meghalaya and raid his village to this day but they stay away from the black pepper plants.
“The elephants destroyed my standing crops in the past and they are doing the same even today. However, the difference is that earlier I had no idea on how I could make up for the loss. The plantation of black pepper has greatly augmented my income,” Chiniram told this newspaper.
He said some 400 households spanning across ten villages had been benefitted by growing black pepper. He planted 10,000 saplings in 2017-18 and made a profit of Rs.70,000.
“The villagers’ attitude towards the jumbos has also changed. Earlier, they were hostile to the animal. Now, as they have got a solution for additional income, they don’t get angry easily,” he said.
The black pepper solution is the brainchild of Diya Foundation, an NGO. It says the farmers’ income has risen by 30-40 per cent.
“The villagers had no concept of this additional income. They had areca nut trees at their homes and we thought they can grow black pepper alongside. As they started growing black pepper, the areca nut trees additionally got manure. Also, it ensured the additional income,” said Martin Rabha of Diya Foundation.
He said on learning about the elephant menace, the NGO members had met the farmers and analysed it.
“We held discussions and tried to analyse their problem. We prepared a plan and submitted it to Tata Trust. It gave us a certain grant for three years. Subsequently, we trained the farmers on black pepper cultivation and pest management. We taught them on how manure can be produced at home and how black pepper should be plucked and assorted,” Martin said.
Stating that elephants will raid human settlements whenever there is a scarcity of food in their habitats, he said the Diya Foundation tried to develop a friendly atmosphere without hurting any.
“I won’t say the elephants have stopped coming or damage to the crops has stopped. However, the livelihood of farmers isn’t hampered now. In fact, their income has enhanced, thanks to black pepper plantation,” Martin added.