Mechanization and Technology

How Technology is Helping Farmers Protect Crop Loss From Wildlife Animals?

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 Guest Author: Pranjali Ravindra Kuthe, Outreach and Partnership Coordinator, Katidhan 

29 May 2024, New Delhi: India, with its rich biodiversity, faces a significant challenge of crop loss due to wild animals. This issue has profound implications for the country’s agricultural sector, rural livelihoods, and wildlife conservation efforts. Crop loss from wild animals in India is a complex problem influenced by various factors, including habitat encroachment, human-wildlife conflict, and climate change. Understanding the dynamics of this issue and exploring sustainable solutions is crucial for balancing the needs of agriculture and wildlife conservation. Farmers across the country frequently grapple with the destruction of their crops by wild animals.

Pranjali Ravindra Kuthe, Outreach and Partnership Coordinator, Katidhan

Elephants, wild boars, nilgai (blue bull), monkeys, and peafowl are among the common culprits. The extent of crop damage varies geographically, but the problem is particularly acute in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam. Human-wildlife conflict has emerged as a significant issue impacting farmers’ livelihoods across many regions. This conflict often results in the destruction of crops and livestock, severely affecting the economic stability of rural communities. In particular, wild animals such as wild boars, deer, nilgai, and elephants are responsible for devastating 25%-30% of crops annually, making it one of the primary concerns for farmers. The impact of crop losses due to wild animals is multifaceted. Firstly, it directly affects farmers’ income, reducing their ability to sustain their families and invest in future agricultural activities. Secondly, the recurrent nature of these losses necessitates continuous investment in procuring new crops, which strains the already limited resources of small-scale farmers.

Additionally, certain regions face particular challenges from predators like tigers and leopards, which pose threats to livestock, thereby compounding the financial and emotional stress on farming communities. Livestock losses are another critical aspect of the human-wildlife conflict. Predators such as tigers and leopards often attack livestock, leading to significant economic losses for farmers. The need to replace lost animals incurs recurring costs, exacerbating the financial burden on farmers. These losses can also disrupt local economies, as livestock often plays a crucial role in agricultural and transportation activities. The root cause of increasing human-wildlife conflict lies in the growing encroachment of agricultural activities into forest lands.

As agricultural lands expand, they often intersect with natural wildlife corridors, which are essential for the movement and survival of wild animals. This encroachment leads to habitat fragmentation and restricts the free movement of wildlife, forcing them into closer contact with human settlements. Consequently, the frequency and intensity of human-wildlife encounters have escalated, leading to more significant crop and livestock losses and, at times, posing direct threats to human safety.

Addressing this complex issue requires a multifaceted approach. Effective strategies include implementing better land-use planning to minimize encroachment on wildlife habitats, employing modern farming techniques that deter animals, and establishing compensation schemes for farmers who suffer losses. Community-based conservation programs can also play a vital role in fostering coexistence between humans and wildlife. By promoting awareness and involving local communities in conservation efforts, it is possible to develop sustainable solutions that benefit both farmers and wildlife. The figure of Rs. 10000 crore represents a staggering loss for the Indian agrarian community only due to wildlife attacks, where a significant portion of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. These losses are not just financial; they also reflect the struggles of millions of farmers whose lives are disrupted by wildlife incursions.

In Karnataka, for instance, elephant herds from neighboring forested areas often raid paddy fields, causing significant losses. Similarly, in Maharashtra, wild boars and nilgai are notorious for destroying crops like sugarcane, soybean, and maize. The economic impact of these losses is substantial, often pushing already vulnerable farmers into deeper poverty.

Traditional methods of deterrence, such as fencing, scarecrows and chemical repellents, often prove inadequate or too costly. In many cases, these methods can also harm the animals or the environment, raising ethical and ecological concerns. Fencing is expensive and requires regular maintenance and they pose risks to both animals and humans. Scarecrows and Noise Makers can initially deter animals but often lose effectiveness as animals become accustomed to them. Chemical Repellents can have adverse environmental impacts and may pose health risks to both animals and humans.

Parabraksh technology offers an innovative solution to this pressing problem. The name ‘Parabraksh’ combines “Para,” meaning beyond, and “Braksh,” meaning protection, symbolizing an advanced level of safeguarding crops. It utilizes solar-powered lights designed specifically to deter animals from entering crop fields. The system is based on the principle that unexpected flashes of light can startle and deter animals, encouraging them to avoid the area. The deterrent lights are equipped with solar panels, making them energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. They charge during the day and operate autonomously at night. Lights emit intermittent flashes in varying patterns. These unpredictable flashes are more effective in startling animals also the technology requires minimal maintenance once installed. The solar panels and LED lights have long lifespans. The technology leverages the understanding of animal behavior. Most wild animals are wary of sudden bright lights, which they associate with human presence or potential danger. The flashing or constant light creates an uncomfortable environment for the animals, prompting them to avoid the area.

The primary advantage for farmers using Parabraksh is the significant reduction in crop losses. By effectively deterring wildlife, farmers can protect their investments and ensure higher yields. This stability is crucial for their livelihoods, particularly in regions where agriculture is a primary economic activity. Parabraksh offers an impressive effectiveness range, deterring various wild animals with remarkable success rates: 89-92% for wild boar, 90-94% for Nilgai, 94-95% for elephants, 95-98% for tigers, and 88-92% for bears. The deployment of 1700 Parabraksh units across the farms of 2200 Indian farmers is a strategic move to address the escalating human-wildlife conflicts. This large-scale installation aims to protect crops, safeguard human and wildlife fatalities, and reduce economic losses.

The above deterrent systems come under Direct Intervention tech that can reduce these losses. Apart from this, there are a lot of experiments and tests going on the use of Satellite tracking systems, Remote Camera monitoring systems, Drones and Artificial intelligence-based systems that would work towards helping reduce these crop losses for the agri sector. However, they are yet to be converted into products that can be sustainably used by a regular farmer to non-invasively keep wild animals away from their farmlands. I believe the future is extremely bright with more investments and efforts need to be concentrated in this sector for more technological solutions to come out from ideas to working products.

Also Read: Sharbati Wheat of Madhya Pradesh Still Fetching Highest Bid in Market

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