Problem Statement: Crop Vandalism by wild animals
We discussed about our first prototype with our mentor, Professor Anil Gupta. He asked us if it will be possible to scare the animals by the sound of their predators. We decided to modify our prototype accordingly. The working of PIR sensor remained same but instead of firing the buzzer, we used a SD card and a speaker to play the sound of a roaring tiger. We also included sounds of fire crackers. We have set the sensitivity of our sensor at its maximum. Once the sensor is fired a delay of 10 sec in introduced before the sensor senses again.
TOWARDS BETTER UNDERSTANDING:
Before prototyping, we heard a lot about attack style, herd size ... Of the Nilgai, Wild boar from a lot of people so, we went to Bharat Bhai’s farm again in the night time to see how they actually behave. There were many watch towers and farmers were guarding their respective field with their heavy torch light (with the help of this torch they were able to see up to quite large distance). Bharat Bhai was already there and guarding his crop field when we went there. He said that a herd of Nilgai has already crossed his crop field area. He was able to chase them away, but they had moved to the next farm. He also told us that they will graze till morning and will go back to Kottar (River basin) via a particular route. So we were waiting for next herd to come. Meanwhile we were talking about which kind of strategy would work against animals. We also observed the sky full of stars, we had a binocular and we were able to spot a binary star system. Then to our surprise we were actually able to spot a couple of Nilgais. Bharat Bhai flashed his torch towards the end point of the crop field and we saw reflecting light coming from Nilgai’s eyes. We moved towards them as fast as possible but they went to thorny forest very quickly. Nilgai is very hyperactive and shy animal that’s why their domestication is not possible. After that, we went back to the watch tower waited for the few more minutes. Bharat Bhai said that with his experience, herd will not come back until morning. Then we came back to the Gram Bharti.
We are using high intensity light bulb and ultrasound speaker as actuators which will turn off/on for varying time interval after PIR Sensor senses any motion. Nilgai and wild boar are scared of human presence. Human surveillance has been effective method to prevent crop vandalism so we are trying to create virtual human presence with the help of flashing of light, predator voice, and the scarecrow. We will try to build prototype in the day time and test it in the night time. Keeping in mind that what farmer can afford, initially we are trying to use less electronic components as much as possible. After testing the first prototype we will see the result and will add components accordingly. Lastly, we will make an integrated circuit.
Day 1: Visit to Amrapur, Mubarakpur and Arjunpur
For our first field visit we decided to visit the nearest farming village Amrapur, 2 km from our place of stay. We left at 10 am in the morning and reached there in 5 minutes. We found the household of the first farmer there and discussed the aspects of crop vandalism with him. Next we were informed that a nearby villager is deeply affected by Nilgai (Blue Bulls) and would like to talk to us. We were more than happy to discuss the problem with him as well.
Name: Praveen Singh
TM: Team Member PS: Praveen Singh
TM: What crops do you grow in your land?
PS: In my distributed 12 highs land - I grow wheat, jowar, bajra, dongar(paddy), kapas(cotton) and arandi(castor).
TM: What do you think can increase the crop yield?
PS: The major loss to farmer here is due to the attack by wild animals in our farms. The loss is merely not due to eating, due to their movement through the field, most crop gets trampled. On average 30% of our production is lost due to animal activities.
TM: Where do these animals come from?
PS: Nilgai and wild boar are primary responsible for our losses. Both these animals stay in Kottar during the day and become active in the night. Kottar is the riverbed for river Sabarmati and during the winter season it does have water - the attack is lesser during those months. During summer the river is dry - they come out more often to seek food and water.
TM: Can you give us some more information about nilgai?
PS: They generally rest in the grassland during the day and around 8 in the evening they can be sighted in some of the farms. they come in herds of size upto 15 and both male and female are present. Their total population would be around 150-200 in the wild.
TM: How does it effect you?
PS: After eating in one field they move to the adjoining field and sometimes if they are chased away they run swiftly and destroy our crops in the process.They do not have a fixed entry point in the field - they can enter from any side - thus surveillance is required on all directions. Apart from eating, due to their movement the plants which are in their primary stage gets effected. If their shoot is broken - it will not grow to its full height and hence the productivity is reduced. The returns are not proportional to our hard work.
TM: What about bund(wild boar)?
PS: They rest in the mud area around the tall during the day and come to field during the night. Wild boar can even chase away pet dogs. It is more difficult to tame bund, 3 people are required to completely chase them away - they defend by changing direction and rolling over. They start eating from one end and can destroy the whole produce till the end of the farm.
TM: Does it also attack stored food?
PS: Yes. Once it carried away a 60 kg sack of wheat. It became completely useless as our own cattle would not eat it after smelling the bund.
TM: Does government provide any compensation?
PS: Not at all. We had gone to the Gandhinagar Sachivalya to file a complaint. Despite submitting the images of the destroyed land we never got any response. Government officials do come to inquire about the amount of produce but not about the amount of destruction.
TM: How are you defending against these animals?
PS: None at all. Though we have tried using some methods in the past - We have tried smell and sound based methods but to no effect. We had tied two glass bottles to detect their entry - but nilgai jumps over it and bund comes from beneath. Nilgai can jump over as high as 4 feet. Trenches are also of no use. Finally they have to manually chased away by rods or crackers. Medicines with smell were also tried but it adapts very quickly so they have minimal effect. Sound based system have the disadvantage that wild boar attacks the source of the sound.
TM: What do you think can act as an effective solution?
PS: Fencing of 6 feet height seems to the only possible method to prevent them fro entering. But it very costly. Farmers of near by field must come together to put a bigger fence to make it affordable but all farmers do not come to a agreement due to monetary issues.
TM: Do you think an automatic alarm system can work for you?
PS: Yes it might work. But it must try to constant the animals in the Kottar itself. Otherwise they will destroy one farm or the other.
Praveen Singh informed us that he is not getting the desired rates for the crops grown to make a handsome profit. He needs money during March end for sowing crops for the next financial year. Thus he takes loans and these loans keeps increasing over the year. If productivity of their fields is increased he can meet his financial demands. One way seems to be protection against attacks of wild animals which are responsible for 30% production loss.
Next we proceed to the villager who was seeking to talk to us. His farm was located on the boundary of river basin. It was was large with multiple crops being grown. He initially assumed we are government officials. He was adamant on fence being put around his field. He wanted more subsidy from the govt.(90%) and the process to become easier in terms of paperwork. As his field was very near to the basin recent damage was observed on his field. He showed around his field to us.
Name: Jeetendra Rathore
TM: Team Member JR: Jeetendra Rathore
TM: Can you name the crops currently grown?
JR: Currently we grow jowar and dongar.
TM: Can you tell the extent of damage done to your farm?
JR: My farm is the nearest to the Kottar so maximum damage is done on my fields. It acts as the entry point for the wild animals. You can fathom the extent of the damage from the fact that I put nuts in my filed to optimally produce 50 maan of output however due to the vandalism I am only producing 5 maan. I can survive only due the dairy that I have.
TM: What are the preventive measures that you are currently using?
JR: Currently I have grown a patch of cactus shrubs along the border. It is keeping the boar away mostly but the nilgai can jump over it. I have to constantly watch over the field from my home and on any indication of presence of nilgai, i flash torch light from my roof. It is enough to scare them away, but they come back after a span of 2 hours.
TM: So can we automate this process?
JR: Minimum human intervention should be there so we do not need to come down to the farm. The automated system would work if could chase away back to the Kottar and it should be robust that it does not come back after some time.
In the afternoon we set off to Mubarakpur, a village 4 km from Grambharti. Mubarakpur village was not near kottar area and surrounded by other villages. The lands of most farmers was near the highway. Population is around 2500 and there is no govt. medical dispensary in the village. Sarpanch is very young, 25 years of age. Villagers have unanimously elected the Sarpanch here. Earlier the Sarpanch was corrupt and only worked to fill his pocket. Villagers want to see real changes in their living and working standards.
Name: Hasmukh Bhai
TM: Team Member HB: Hansmukh Bhai
TM: What animals are causing most problems to your farming activities?
HM: We are growing jowar on our farms currently. Most problematic animal is bund(wild boar). Nilgai comes to their farms very seldom because the village is situated quite far from Kottar(river basin). The villagers who have their field situated near the Kottar is troubled by it.
TM: What are the entry points for wild boar?
HM: nearby there is an ONGC setup due to which oily mud is present in the area. Bund, after getting soiled in that oily mud, comes to our farms and makes the crops very dirty. It can dig upto 3-4 feet deep holes in the mud.
TM: What are the solutions you are currently deploying?
HM: We currently use a chemical called phorate mixed with wheat. It is a cheap chemical which costs Rs 40 to 50 per kg. We mix it with wheat flour and keep it near the crops. This creates a sort of honeytrap, and bund very easily eats it. 2-3 hours after eating it, bund gets poisoned and dies.
Name: Chetan Bhai
TM: Team Member CB: Chetan Bhai
TM: What crops are you currently growing?
CB: kapas(cotton), which germinates in 3-4 days after sowing and takes 1 month for full growth. We also grow jowar, brinjal, cauliflower. We used to grow green chilli 2-3 years back but due to some airborne disease, it started getting spoiled in whole of this area.
TM: Can you tell us the process of cotton plantation?
CB: We use tractors for ploughing and flood irrigation. We use standard 4 feet distance in between crops. Seed is sown with bare hands and is 1 angal (around 2 cm) deep.
TM: What are you using currently to kill pests?
CB: We use Oberon(Rs. 400) and insecticide Rimjhim(Rs 380). It is quite effective and there is no problem as such.
TM: What animals do attack your crops?
CB: The village is very far from the Kottar so Attack from Nilgai is not too frequent but sometimes they do attack and huge losses are incurred. Attack to crop from wild boar is very often and they generally eat crop like cotton (cotton carry), timber, trunk, and roots of grasses which generally germinate in the porous and fertile soil with the crop. Wild boar has good sense organ and in the search of food, they can dig up to 3-4 feet deep in the soil. Their body odour is very unpleasant so when their body makes contact with field crop the crop becomes very stinky and domestic animal (cow and buffalo) don’t eat that crop.
TM: How do you prevent these attacks?
CB: I use a mixture of pesticide (forate) and wheat flour and spread it over the crop. When bund eats this they die after some time. In order to prevent herd attack, this method doesn’t seem very effective.
Little experiment by Satish Gaurav, our team member
There was papaya plantation in adjacent field, which was contact based and grown by one of his family member. They were small plants and about 1 year old. It was observed that some plants were not bearing fruits. Satish had some knowledge and a solution about this problem that if a small wooden stick is hammered through the stem at its base, then within 2-3 days, plant starts to bear fruits!
Most of the farmers don't seem comfortable when we ask about their income from farming but Chetan Bhai was very charming and comfortable. He said that he makes good money and is happy with his farming. He generally grows two (sometimes three) crops in a year i.e. (cotton in the summer, wheat in the winter, jowar and bajara in b/w the winter and the summer). They don’t do farming of pulses because of monkey attacks.
After concluding our visit at Mubarakpur we decided to visit Arjunpur. Mentors from SRISTI provided a point of contact in the village. We talked to him over phone to inquire if we can visit his village. When we reached his home, he was milking his cows. He showed us what fodder he fed to his cows. They were special fodder that induced more fat in the milk. After getting to know us, he took us to his farm. His farm was located very near to the highway, behind bungalows. On the way he told us that he owned 15 bigha land, and it appeared that he was well-off. He was growing beans(chauli) and gourd(lauki). We tasted the raw beans and it was quite tasty. Later he informed us that pesticide had not been sprayed till then.
Name: Mukeshbhai Gandabhai Patel
TM: Team Member MGB: Mukeshbhai Gandabhai Patel
TM: Which animals are causing harm to your farming activities?
MGB: Nilgai is less of a concern as farm is located far from the river basin. But monkeys & wild boar are creating havoc in the field if field if its left unwatched for a day. Today monkeys attacked the field in the noon as I had to go somewhere & no one was on the watch.
TM: What kind of destruction is being caused?
MGB: Monkey eats while sitting on the field, it weighs around 7-8kg. Therefore it damages the field too much. Monkey tastes the vegetable & leaves it around. Nilgai is not causing unnecessary destruction, it just eats & leaves the field.
TM: How’s the market for fruits & vegetables?
MGB: Atleast 30% is destroyed by the vermin & also market is not good enough for them. Kapas is more popularly grown in the area due to its great demand & less handling efforts. Kapas is less attacked therefore it is profitable. Vegetables are left little
raw as market demand is not good.
TM: Can you comment about Panchayat & govt.?
MGB: Govt. is not helping or providing subsidies for the damage. During floods when damage was around 80% of produce only Rs.2000 was offered as subsidy. Our sarpanch is 55 years old and vermin attacks are not much of a concern for Panchayat. We wish we have a young sarpanch in future.
TM: Have you adopted any measures?
MGB: If fire is kept burning near the farm for 2 hours it prevents vermin to enter the field. But bund & Nilgai adapts in sometime. Monkeys do not attack in the night. I am planning to put fence around the field once I manage the funds. I have not sprayed the field as there is no disease for now & its costly.
Damage in the field also depends on the penetration of the vermin. If the field is far away Nilgai does not damage much, but bund still enters the field. Fire cannot be solution as it causes pollution & there is a risk of farm fire. So a singular solution for every field is not viable & even not desirable.
Day 2: Visit to Kottar, Delvad and NIF Farm
KOTTAR (area of Sabarmati river which has been swept off by water, which consists of riverbed)
In all our field visits on 29 may, we were told by farmers and locals that wild animals like nilgai(blue bull) and bund(wild boar) came to their farms after sunset, ate their crops in darkness when they could not be seen, and then before sunrise receded to the area called kottar. The animals rested there in the daytime. We were anxious and excited to see and know the reason why animals came from there. Was food and water not available there? Were they doing it just to trouble the farmers? that couldn’t be! So our group decided to embark for this journey.
We left grambharti at 10’ o clock in the morning, but before leaving, a local gave us an advice that we should go to Amarnath dham, a temple on top of a mountain which would give us a bird’s eye view of the area. So we reached the temple but unfortunately from there we could not have a proper view of Kottar. Then we decided to go there by ourselves using google maps because there was no actual road leading there. In the way we encountered this:
All the body parts were scattered here & there. It looked like a week old. So naturally, we were scared to death! But anyway, we decided to continue. From the horns we identified it as a male nilgai. Soon were were inside an area which looked like:
It was quite a challenging task to make our way through the forest. We can very well see that nearly all the bushes and trees are thorny and not edible for eating.
On our way back, we clicked another photo from top of a mountain. We would again like to emphasize that there was no edible food for herbivore animals in this area, where wild animals live most of the time.This is definitely a reason that they come to farmlands for fresh and healthy food.
Also we saw human tracks in the forest, there was too much intervention. There was sand mining going on, and loud noise of tractors and trucks could be heard from a long distance. Approximately 920 bigha is the forest cover. We finally reached near the river bed, and clearly we can see that as the sand is very fine there are no plants there too and no water most times of the year.
According to Dr. Madan, 30 years back, the jungle in this area was dense and lush green, so the animals had a nice habitat in which they could sustain themselves.
We also encountered concentrated dung at various spots in the jungle. Dr. Madan told us that a specialty of Nilgai is that they excrete at same spots everytime.
This enables hunters to wait for Nilgai at these spots and kill them. He told us that even if they get separated from their herd, they get reunited easily after sometime. Their herd size can range from 10 to 40 in number. Most of Nilgai’s water requirement can be fulfilled from eating crops itself. According to doctor, no one has ever tried to domesticate nilgai. Nilgai falls in category of Ruminants; it has gap in its hoof.
On a concluding note, due to farm expansion and deforestation, habitat loss has occurred over the years and thus animals have increased the frequency of interfering with human activities.
We were shocked to know that IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature) has declared Nilgai as the “least concerned” animal presently.
During our earlier visit to villages, while interviewing people about human-wild animal encounter - one story was pretty famous. Though nobody remembered the name of the victim, we were told that a farmer in Delvad village was attacked by a wild boar while he was trying to chase away the boar from his crop fields. the wild boar had apparently attacked the left foot of the farmer and that left him heavily injured. They did not know the extent of the damage but estimated that the encounter must have crippled the farmer. We set out to find this farmer and know the true account of events from himself. Given the popularity of the tale, the team assumed it should not be difficult to locate the farmer.
Our team arrived at the bus stand of the village Delvad around 5.30 pm and found that a couple of people were relaxing at a compound there. We introduced ourselves and began chatting about the state of events in the village. We informed them that we were gathering information about the tragedies of the farmers regarding wild animals. On inquiring about the injured farmer, they have never heard about such an incident and also assured us that had such an incidence ever occurred in their village they would have known about it. Undeterred by this we thought that the Village Sarpanch would know about it. To our disappoint the Village Sarpanch also had no clue about it. He guessed that the story could be possibly from another village Delvada (a good 40 km from there). We asked him about the damage due to animal vandalism in their village. Their village was also plagued by the attacks by blue bulls(nilgai), wild boar(bund), monkeys and porcupine(saahee). He introduced us to Bharat Bhai whose farmland was nearest to the river basin (Kottar) - area where nilgai and other animals stayed during the day and came back during night to the farms. Bharat Bhai took us to his farm and we chatted with him for more than 2 hours. Some key insights are presented here.
Name : Bharat Bhai
Team Member (TM) Bharat Bhai (BB)
TM: Are animals selective while damaging the crops?
BB: Not at all, every crop is equally effected. They need food to eat and they find that in our farms. In a year we grow chauli, kakdi, baigan, bhindi, jowar and gehoon, but wild animals will come and eat each crop.
TM: Is there some animal specific attacking frequency and style that you know of?
BB: The farm is mainly effects by four animals: nilgai, bund, saahee and bandar.
Nilgai stays in the Kottar during the day and comes to eat during the night, around 8, and continue eating around till 5 in the morning. It is mainly interested in eating fruits and vegetables and some times eats grass or leaves. they come in a herd size of 15-20. They will start eating from one farm and then move to the next one. They can go all the way upto the highway and return to the Kottar in the morning.
Bund also has a similar pattern for approaching the fields - they come to the fields in the night and then return in the morning and always in large herd size with their babies(5-6) accompanying them. However it creates more havoc, since it likes to eat all plant parts - leaves, fruits, stem and root. When the field is dry it is difficult for them to dig, but when it is wet - they dig for roots and stem. Bund also likes to eat earthworm from the soil - earthworm is required for the soil to remain fertile, so it digs the soil. Thus the tragedy is manifold.
Saahee has spines all over his body, 12-15 cm in length. Not only do they eat the crops but due to their movement they also cut the plant stems - destroying the crop completely. They visit the filed around midnight.
Bandar comes to the field during the day and they eat fruits and vegetables. They are not very frequent in their visits so the damage due to them is minimal.
TM: So what are measures do you use to protect your crops?
BB: Presently we only do human surveillance. I have a watch point at the end of the farm and I stay here during the night - on noticing any activity I flash a torch light from here.There is a light cactus shrubs at the border of my farms - yet they make it either by jumping over them or they find some entry point where the vegetation is minimal. Nilgai is scared away by the light flashing and I do not have to step down from the watch point. Similarly saahee also gets scared very easily. However for bund I do get down to chase them away. But this is not a permanent solution as they always come back in an hour or two and if I doze off anytime - they easily enter the field.
TM: Are their any other methods they you used but they failed?
BB: For bund we came to know that there is a medicine named Phorate - that can kill them after some time on consuming it. But it smelled badly so the bund started avoiding them. Then we tried mixing it with wheat mixture but that was not helpful either. So we finally used rat killer - bund was eating this, but it only make it sleep for sometime and they would eventually come back after a day.
TM: What do you think can act as a permanent solution to this menace?
BB: Fencing seems to be the permanent solution, however it will be a very costly one. The entire field will need a expenditure of Rs 1 lakh and even on using the 50% subsidy provided by government - it will more than enough to bear. A fencing with 3-tier barbed wire will work and it should also contain a wire mesh patch in the bottom to protect it against smaller animals like bund and saahee. An electrified fence would be even better for giving “jhatka”.
TM: How difficult is it to avail the subsidy?
BB: Though government forms are floated regularly it requires a lot of paper work. Also the officials do not readily agree for smaller fields. They insist to ask for subsidy for fields with area greater than 100 bigha. This need farmers with surrounding farm lands to cooperate, however farmers do not come to a conclusion regarding money matters.
TM: What about cheap solutions?
BB: Is there one?
We introduced some of the cheap solutions that we came across during prior-art search to Bharat Bhai. In the first method, you have to dilute 100 ml rotten egg content in 10 litre of water and sprinkle it over your crops. The herbivorous animals will be repelled by the pungent smell and egg being organic will be a good manure for the farm.
Given the present method that he used to prevent crop damage we discussed possibility of an automatic alarm/lightening system which would detect the entry of wild animal in the field and fire an alarm or lighting. Bharat Bhai responded positively and also suggested ways to prevent animals becoming adapted to the auto-mates system. The alarm or lighting system should have a random element to mimic human presence to chase away animals. In conclusion Bharat Bhai also pointed that a mere repellent system would not be enough to solve this problem. The wild animals would need some food source to sustain and we must also think about some possible food to these animals in the forest or the Kottar itself.
We had recorded the recent damage that was done last night. Nilgai and wild boar had visited the field and we found their hoof prints all over field. There were digging marks and eaten plant shoots. Bharat Bhai also told that a day before his entire chauli plantation was destroyed - he had to resow the seeds. Also a lot of damage was noticed due to trampling by the wild animals - the jowar plantation was not eaten by either the bund or nilgai but they were run down by the animals.
On the suggestion of various people inside NIF, and some villagers, we decided to go to NIF farm in the night. We were told that many nilgai’s visit the farm at night and some remain there itself! Excited by this information, after making necessary preparation, we left the campus at 10 pm. The road had no light, and there was absolute darkness so it was a bit scary and thrilling at the same time. We reached there in 15 minutes by walking. We stayed there for about 2 hours. Sometimes dogs barked, so we thought a wild animal is approaching. It is also a human tendency that when we can’t see or hear something, we think we hear what we want to hear. So all our attempts to see wild animals were unsuccessful.
Unsuccessful, sad and frustrated, we decided to head back. We observed that the road was fenced on both sides with height of at least 6 feet, which indicates how serious the problem is in this area. Then the lucky encounter finally occurred. We say two Nilgais’ sitting peacefully and probably chewing. On seeing torchlight, they stood up and started to walk away from the light. From their activities, it appeared that they were not sure that there were humans nearby. At the same time, we heard sound of firecrackers in the distance, which shows that there were more animals in nearby farms. Firecrackers are traditionally used to scare away animals.
We noticed that there were many entry points in fencing, and many pillar were broken. This shows that how animals might enter a farmland, but later on could not find exit points.
There was a good probability that these two female nilgais were the ones we encountered in the morning while returning from Kottar area, because they too were sighted running in the nearby areas.
Why this problem has occurred?
The population of the human mankind has been increasing and to fulfill the needs of food and home we are changing forest into the crop field. As an intelligent species, we have changed everything from the ground to space. In last two centuries technology has changed everything the way we live and communicate which is directly leading to exploitation of natural resources in the wrong way. Deforestation causes soil erosion which means the animals has less food and less area to live. In our case of study we are trying to solve how to prevent the crop vandalism done by the Nilgai and wild boar. In the past few decades due to the incomplete of cycle of the natural food chain (Nilgai and wild boar has no predator) and high reproduction, population of the animals has also been increasing and now it’s has become severe problem for the crop field and farmers.