Hamlet of despair, resurgence of wild boars in parts of Kashmir forces many to suspend farming
Abdul Khaliq Sofi and his family were anticipating a harvest of good rice crop this year, but the family is in despair now after wild boars suddenly appeared in the area and damaged their farmlands.
Sofi’s family would ideally start the conventional annual farming of paddy crops in April. They and other farmers would prepare a patch of land by sowing paddy seeds. But they have now decided to abandon farming this year due to the repeated damage caused by the wild boars. They’ve to again purchase paddy seeds which has put an extra financial burden on them.
“At least three times I have sowed paddy seeds in my fields. But, the repeated damage caused by wild boars has forced me to call off farming for this year. I cannot afford the repeated purchase of seeds from the market”, said Sofi.
Mohammad Ashraf is a senior representative of the Chakloo village in North Kashmir's Baramulla district and a member of the local civil society in the area. According to his estimate, he said, their village has more than 17,700 hectares of land, out of which more than 505 hectares are sown with paddy crops. The land is majorly used for orchids and other vegetation, while there are many more farmers, like Sofi, affected by the resurgence of wild boars in the area. The villagers told Groundreport.in, that the majority of the fields were damaged at night.
“The entire village is suffering because of the sudden resurfacing of the wild boars. They have wreaked havoc by destroying the paddy fields of the area. Due to this, many farmers have decided to give up as there is a limited period for growing paddy saplings”, Ashraf said.
Emerging food crisis
Farmers of the area said they are facing repeated damages to their fields due to the rampage wrecked by the wild boars, saying that if the damages keep on repeating they will have no way, other than to call off farming for this year.
Although the framers stated that they are constantly monitoring and guarding their fields to assure the safety of newly re-sown paddy seedlings until they sprout.
Farmers in the area, on the other hand, are also concerned about the future food crisis, noting that if there is no crop this year, how will they feed their families.
“We grow the rice and preserve a yearly portion for our food, while we sell the rest of the produce to meet our other requirements of life which include the study of children, proposed marriage, any function, or other requirements. But when there is no rice production what are we going to do, we don’t have any idea where we are leading, but at least we know that the times ahead for us are going to be very tough”, said the farmers of the area.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts—IJCRT, the agricultural operations in Kashmir are divergent from the rest of the country. The obvious reason for this was the geography and climate of the region which is totally different from other parts of the country.
Agriculture experts on Paddy sowing process
Prof. Dr. Raihana, dean of the faculty of agriculture at SKUAST-Kashmir and also a chief scientist, told Ground Report that the process of sowing paddy seeds starts from 20 April till 20 May, stating that a time frame of 27-28 days is needed in the nursery for the seedlings to sprout, after which the transplantation can take place.
“In Kashmir valley, normally the time frame for paddy sowing seeds starts from 20 April till 20 May, and the seeds sown on 20 April can be transplanted from 20 May, similarly the seedlings sown in May can be transplanted in June”, she said.
Farming is the most dominant land use in the Kashmir Valley, India. However, the region is characterized by low productivity of agricultural crops that include rice.
A separate study stated that rice is the major food crop of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, India, and that it is predominantly a mono-cropped activity in the region and occupies around 37.94% of the total cultivable area in the region. Currently, the net area sown under rice in J&K is 262012 ha, out of which 49.80% was in the Kashmir valley.
Meanwhile, the wild boar has also been frequently sighted in North Kashmir’s Hajin area. The repeated requests to the wildlife department have gone unheeded. According to the farmers, the wild boars in the area are also damaging the beans, potatoes, and other crops. Farmers here, too, are helpless.
The villagers in the Chakloo area in district Baramulla told Groundreport.in, the sightings of wild animals in the region have increased in the last few years. Wild boars move in flocks and significantly damage crops in a very short period of time. A local farmer said, during pre-dawn hours, he counted approximately 52 wild boars roaming in the paddy fields.
Guarding, and Fencing the fields
The farmers in Chakloo village have organized a guarding routine. That is to say, the farmers protect the farmlands in shifts throughout the day and night. Furthermore, many farmers have also constructed temporary tin sheet fences to protect their crops from the attack.
“We have shifts to safeguard our farmlands, and under the open sky during the night hours. We remain awake for hours to ensure the safety of the seeds and saplings from the incursion of wild boars into our farmlands. We even have rechargeable and DC lamps installed in the fields to show this animal that humans are there”, said Ashraf.
As per the farmers, the cost of fencing, and the purchase of extra paddy seeds is a financial burden on them.
“How much land can we cover through fencing? Paddy fields are big. This is new for us as now it involves a new expenditure of purchasing tin sheets or steel nets. It is better not to do farming in this situation,” said Mehraj-u-din, a local farmer in the area.
Threat to Hangul and other species
Experts and observers say that the presence of wild boars around the Dachigam National Park is posing a severe threat not only to critically endangered specie—Hangul but to the other animals in the park as well.
Semran Parvaiz, a science writer and independent observer, told Ground Report that she frequently visits the park and that she has been shocked to see the deteriorating state of the soil and the flora that the wild boars have uprooted.
"If immediate action is not taken, the presence of non-native animals poses a significant threat to the other species in the area." The current natural animals have never been a source of concern for one another. "The incursion of this non-native animal must be stopped," she emphasized.
Another expert, who is also a researcher at the wildlife department, stated that there is clear evidence of suppression of other animals and their habitat, noting that if the population of a non-native animal increases rapidly, the current habitat of animals is encroached upon.
"The situation necessitates action, and it is critical to ensure that the habitat, food, and lives of other species are not disrupted," she added. "It is possible that the presence of wild boars is suppressing the Hangul's habitat because they are prolific breeders."
Non-native Wild Boar threaten Native Hangul
According to a research titled ‘A first report of the presence of the Indian Wild Pig Sus scrofa cristatus from Kajinag Range, Kashmir, India’, the wild pig is not believed to have been naturally present in the Kashmir Valley but is said to have been introduced during the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh (1846–1857), the erstwhile ruler of Jammu & Kashmir (Lawrence 1895). The Wild Pig became common along the eastern foothills of the Kashmir Mountains with Dachigam National Park holding the core population.
The research states that after the Dogra Raj (Maharaja Rule), the wild pig was recognized as an invasive species in Kashmir, and thus no steps were taken to conserve it. The species was considered locally extinct even from the Dachigam National Park (Mansoor 1989) and, according to State Wildlife Department, had not been sighted in the park and it’s adjoining areas since 1984. The recent sighting of the wild Pig in Dachigam after a gap of about 30 years, however, proves that it still survives in Dachigam.
Since the mid-1980s, wild boars have not been sighted in the region. They are not even native to Kashmir. After almost 30 years, they were sighted again in 2013. Reportedly, the wild boars have been spotted in many areas of North Kashmir, including Uri, Lachipora, Limber, Rafiabad, Rajwar, and Balpur.
The animal has also been spotted in Dachigam National Park and its surrounding orchards and farming lands in Srinagar. Their increase in number is becoming a point of concern. This threatens Hangul’s critical population in the region. Primarily as they share the same ecological habitat, with limited resources.
Meanwhile, regional wildlife warden Kashmir Rashid Yahya Naqash said that a comprehensive study is underway on the resurfacing of the animal in valley parts. He added, they have already started a study on the wild boars but said the animal is not new to the valley habitat as it had its presence earlier as well.
Naqash said that although they don’t have any census data on the animal available, he said that the wildlife department is already aware of its presence and damages caused by it, stating that with their growing population, they are moving out of their habitat in search of more food.
“We have already awarded a study, and the final report is yet to come, whatever the recommendations of the study are, those will be taken forward, however, without any report, we cannot call for it’s vermin status and start shooting them to wipe them out”, he said.
People are not just worried at the appearance of wild boars, Jammu and Kashmir is a region with a predominantly Muslim population. And, the Islamic faith prohibits Muslims from eating pork, while many in the region believe that the mere sight of a pig offends their religious sensitivities.
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