Digamber Negi, 37-year-old farmer in picturesque Doon Dwara village on the border of Dehradun-Tehri Garhwal districts, is cursing his fate after monkeys barged into his field a week ago and destroyed vegetable crop.
Like Negi, several other villagers have similar plight to share. The village has a population of 320 people and they are dependent only on agriculture.
Villagers complain that in the past one decade or so, attacks by monkeys and wild boars in their agriculture land have made things difficult. “We keep guarding fields from monkeys during day and from wild boars during night,” said Negi.
Farming in hills is shrinking fast and farmers losing interest in it. Besides attacks by monkeys and wild boars, farmers facing problem due to lack of irrigation facility. Farming in hills is rain fed and canals are limited to some pockets.
In Doon Dwara, villagers have either stopped or growing limited crops like millets, oats, vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes etc.
Shyam Singh, another farmer, said monkeys destroy vegetables while wild boars destroy potato fields. “We are left with very little options,” Singh said.
Farming in hills has become a non-profitable entity. Government figure shows that agriculture land came down from 7.91 lakh hectares in 2009-10 to 7.41 lakh in 2011-12.
Half of the state’s agricultural land falls in four districts of Dehradun, Nainital, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar in plains and rest is shared by nine hill districts.
Prakash Dimri, another farmer, said: “₹2,200 is the average cost that comes on sowing in an area of 0.02 hectares or 1 nali while the return is not more than ₹1,500.”
The land holdings are tiny and which are getting further fragmented over time. “87% farming in hills is rain fed while only 13% has irrigation facility,” said Vijay Jardhari, an agro expert.
“Change in the climate pattern is also a big concern, rain cycle is no more regular thus farmers are left with little choice,” he said.
Jardhari said farmers must continue with millets since it survives drought like condition and give handsome returns. He, however, is clueless on providing solutions to farmers who were not growing millets owing to threat from wild animals.
Due to growing population of monkeys, acres of arable land left untilled and agriculture activities have almost reduced to vicinity of houses in the villages.
Villagers in Thano in the outskirts of Dehradun are trying to grow crops such as ginger, turmeric, bitter gourd and lady finger that usually monkeys don’t eat.
People in Balori village that falls in Pauri district have passed a resolution asking the district administration to either drive away monkeys or vasectomise them.
The forest department is entrusted with the task of catching monkeys but it is confined to urban areas. In February 2016, the department gave permission with riders to kill the wild boars affecting farming in hills.
“Killing wild boars is not an easy task. In the absence of trained hunters, the order is meaningless” said Ratan Aswal of village Mirchoda.