Farmers seek solar fencing machines to keep stray cattle at bay

  • Stray cattle damaging crops became a political issue during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections in 2022.
  • The chief minister had promised to implement a scheme to provide solar fencing machines to farmers at a discounted rate. This fencing would be used to deter cattle and other animals from entering fields.
  • While farmers who have knowledge about solar fencing machines are hopeful about the scheme, there is a long wait and need for awareness for widespread adoption of solar fencing.

For the past many years, the farmers of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, have been facing difficulties while guarding their fields. The fear of stray cows and wild animals, that destroy their crops, now discourages farmers from diversifying their crops and sowing maize, potato, pigeon pea, urad and moong.

Stray cattle damaging crops has emerged as a major issue in Uttar Pradesh since 2017. The government is taking various measures to relieve farmers of the strays, but all are proving inadequate. Every year, many farmers in the state lose their lives due to attacks by wild animals, cold temperatures and insect bites while guarding their fields from cattle and other animals that damage the crop.

Stray cattle also became a political issue during the Assembly Elections in 2022. During his election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to free the farmers from the issue of stray cows damaging crops, at a public meeting held in the Asoha block of Unnao district. “We will soon bring a scheme which will free the farmers of Uttar Pradesh from stray cows,” he had said.

After the formation of the government in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath talked about implementing the Mukhyamantri Khet Suraksha Yojana to help the farmers manage stray cows. Under this scheme, solar fencing machines that deterred animals from entering fields were to be provided to the farmers at a discount. Earlier, this scheme was to be implemented only in Bundelkhand with a proposed budget of Rs. 75 crores, but in July 2023, it was announced that it would be implemented across the entire state. Additionally, the budget of the scheme was proposed to be increased from Rs. 75 crores to Rs. 350 crores.

However, after these announcements, no significant progress was seen on the ground. As the preparations for the Lok Sabha elections intensified earlier this year, the Uttar Pradesh government made a provision of Rs. 50 crores for the security of farming fields in its budget presented in February 2024. The government said that this budget will be used to provide solar fencing machines to farmers at a discount of 60-80%.

Till date, neither a draft of this scheme has been prepared nor has the evaluation of solar machines, wires and other items been done.

High hopes from solar fencing, but no information about the scheme

Rakesh Yadav, a 48-year-old resident of Madai Kheda village of Rae Bareli district, goes to guard the fields at seven in the evening. Yadav says that he is not aware of any such scheme.

“The cow shed built in the village is also being supplied with food to confine the animals. In such a situation, farmers have to guard their fields day and night. Wheat is ripening. The gram and pea crops are ready for harvesting. If the strays manage to enter our fields now, they will graze everything, and we will be left with nothing. The government should soon implement the scheme for the sake of the farmers,” said Yadav.

Hansraj Singh, is a 42-year-old resident of Panhan in Unnao district. He has 10 bighas (acres) of farmland. When asked about the Mukhyamantri Khet Suraksha Yojana, Singh said that he is not aware of any such scheme. “Is there such a scheme for the farmers? Please tell us more.”

Singh said that the scheme is beneficial for farmers who are already burdened with the increasing costs of farming. “Fertilisers, seeds, medicines and rising wages have almost wiped out the savings of farmers. In addition to this, protecting our fields from stray cows and wild animals has significantly increased our expenses. Earlier, along with farming, farmers could take up other labour jobs or start a small business, but the terror of stray cows and wild animals has forced them to guard the fields day and night. The government should implement such schemes at the earliest,” he said.

Though Singh has no knowledge about the scheme announced by the state government, he is familiar with solar fencing machines, having installed one in his farm.

“I got to know about solar fencing machines from a friend of mine from Rajasthan. He told me that to protect their fields from wild animals and stray animals, farmers there have installed solar fencing machines which give a mild shock to strays when they come in contact with them,” he said. Singh ordered this machine for about Rs. 12,000 and got the machine installed in the field with the help of local workers.

Singh says, “After the installation of the solar fencing machine, we have again started growing potatoes, sesame, urad, moong, wheat and paddy in the fields.”

Many farmers in Uttar Pradesh employ solar fencing to keep animals out. Photo by Sumit Yadav.

Om Prakash Tiwari, a 35-year-old resident of Padri, Bichhiya block of Unnao district, about 70 km. from Lucknow, has been cultivating wheat, paddy, potato, gram, peas and flowers for the last 15 years. While talking to Mongabay-India, Tiwari said that the menace of wild boars and stray cows has increased a lot in the last five to six years. As a result, the cultivation of potatoes, maize, peas, gram and pigeon peas had to be stopped.

Tiwari said, “We had stopped cultivating potatoes, gram and peas for the last four to five years. Wild pigs are so dangerous that they can attack any person and take his life. Most pigs enter fields at night. During the day, they live in the surrounding forests. Along with pigs, the terror of stray cows is also no less. The cows roaming in herds of hundreds destroy the fields they attack. To save their crops from them, farmers have spent several thousand rupees and installed barbed wire. But it proved to be insufficient to protect the crops.”

In 2022, the state government instructed the farmers to fence their fields with plain wires or ropes instead of barbed wires so that the animals don’t get injured. The government had also announced that erring farmers would be fined.

But, after installing the solar fencing machine, for Tiwari, it has become possible to grow these crops again. He has a total of ten bighas of farmland, out of which he has rented and shared eight bighas with other farmers. After installing the fencing machine in October last year, he is producing gram, peas and potatoes, along with wheat this year. He said that all this has been possible with the help of solar fencing.

He says that earlier he had installed this fencing machine in a two-bigha field which has a solar panel and a 40-ampere battery. Its cost is approximately Rs. 12,000.

An easy way forward

Solar fencing machines are a safe and easy way to run direct current through barbed wire and farm fences. The possibility of causing injuries to animals is also very low.

Solar fencing machine installed in a field in UP. Singh, a farmer, says that after its installation, he has again started growing potatoes, sesame, urad, moong, wheat and paddy. Photo by Sumit Yadav.

Singh explains that the operating system of the machine is simple. “If you have to work in the fields, turn off the button. Turn it on again after the work is finished. This machine is not dangerous. The electric shock is not so strong that it can kill anyone. It’s just a mild shock. But it’s strong enough that no one will dare to touch it.”

Bhuvesh Pandey, a biologist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, said that solar fencing does not cause any harm to the animals. It just gives mild shocks and scares the strays. “It is a good thing for the farmers that they do not have to run this on electricity,” he said.

A long wait for farmers

While farmers who have knowledge about solar fencing machines are hopeful, it may take some more time for them to avail its benefits under the government scheme.

According to the government, this scheme will be implemented in a phased manner and in the first phase, the districts surrounding the forest area will be included.

Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Director R.K. Singh told Mongabay-India that the Uttar Pradesh government has made a budget provision of Rs. 50 crore for installing solar fencing machines under the Mukhyamantri Khet Suraksha Yojana. Under the scheme, solar fencing machines will be provided to farmers at 60% discount for fields up to two hectares. There is a provision of 80% rebate for small land-holding farmers falling in a cluster of 10 hectares.

“The scheme will be implemented in two phases in the state. In the first phase, it is proposed to include 34 districts of the state, including Bundelkhand and those districts having forest areas in which farmers face the threat of stray cattle as well as wild animals. Solar fencing in such districts will protect farmers’ fields as well as humans and wildlife,” said Singh.

This story was first published in Mongabay Hindi.


Banner photo: Representative image of cows in Maharashtra. Photo by Dey.sandip/Wikimedia Commons.

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