Kishanganj maize farmers at wit’s end as elephant herds from Nepal raid standing crop days ahead of harvest

Although such events have occurred in the past too, their frequency has gone up, say forest officials

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Tuesday 02 April 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

Herds of wild elephants from Nepal have damaged green standing maize crops of dozens of farmers in Bihar’s Kishanganj district in the last 48 hours. Days ahead of harvesting, the affected farmers said they are worried about the remaining crops and have no means to protect them.

On April 1 and 2, 2024, two separate elephant herds raided maize fields in half a dozen villages in Dighalbank block in the district.

Noorul Alam, a farmer in Kishanganj, was happy till the end of March with the prospects of a bumper maize harvest this year. But things changed on April 2, when over 2 acres of his standing crop was destroyed by elephants.

“It took more than three months of hard labour to raise the maize crops but right ahead of harvest, the elephants have destroyed everything. 

Alam, who invested a lot of money this season, is now staring at a crisis. “I cannot understand how my family will survive. Maize cultivation is our main source of livelihood. 

The rampage by elephants is posing a major challenge to the farmers and is a matter of great concern, Megha Yadav, divisional forest officer, Araria (Kishanganj is under her jurisdiction) told Down To Earth. Moreover, this is not a one-off incident, she added. “The latest incident of herds of elephants entering farm fields and destroying standing maize crops is not new. This is the 18th such incident in the area in the last three months (90 days).” 

Kishanganj is part of the flood-prone Seemanchal region. Along with Koshi, the region has emerged as a hub of maize cultivation in the last two decades.

Forest officials said the green standing maize plants attract the elephant herds from forests in Nepal. In search of food, the animals enter Doriya, Banswari, Suribhitta, Panchagachi, Dhantola, Jadutola, Tangtangi, Salbari and Lohagarh villages in Dighalbank during maize cultivation period, they added.

Such incidents of plunder have also been recorded in the past – a 200-year-old district gazette revealed that the villages around the border are an old territory of elephants from Nepal, Yadav noted. But they happen more often now, according to Sandip Kumar, a district forest official in Kishanganj. The rampaging elephants killed two people last year, he added. “The incidents of rampage by elephant herds increased in the last two to three years.”

Yadav shared that the pachyderms also damaged over two dozen thatched-roof and tin houses belonging to poor people and injured some local villagers.

The villagers have urged the administration to initiate necessary measures to deal with the problem, fearing more attacks in the future and an increasing threat to lives and property, particularly standing maize crops.

Yadav said that farmers, who are the main victims of the elephant menace, are struggling to get compensation due to a lack of proper land documents. This is because, she added, their farmlands lie in a disputed area on the India-Nepal border, which is considered a ‘no-man’s land’.

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