Farmers turn to flower power to ward off jumbos (India)


Komal Gautham,Times of India

Date Published


COIMBATORE: Desperate to find measures to keep elephants and other wild animals from entering their agricultural land, farmers are now growing marigold flowers near Periyanaickenpalayam.
One farmer, who has been growing marigold for two years, says it has worked to curb such intrusions. On hearing of his success, more farmers are investing in this method. Besides protecting their crop, it also gives them additional income.
“I have been growing banana and coconut in my farm for several years and since the land is located close to the forest, elephants enter the farm frequently. But for the last three years, after I started growing marigold around the banana plants, the number of elephants entering my farm has reduced,” said K K Ayyappan, a farmer and treasurer of Coimbatore District Flower Business Association. He began cultivating marigold, thanks to a national horticulture scheme, which gives farmers a subsidy of 20,000, comprising fertilizers worth 2,000 and a cheque for 18,000 annually.
Rasu, another farmer, who has a farm near Perur town panchayat, said that though elephants were spotted in the vicinity, he noticed that they never came near his marigold farm. “I am not sure if it is the smell or some other reason, but they avoid entering the farm now,” he said.
When forest and horticulture department officials were questioned about the impact of marigold on elephants, they said they were not aware of it. “We know that farmers grew chili and reared bees to stop elephants from entering the farms. But we are not sure about this method,” said an official.
He added that marigold only helps in curbing a banana plant disease. It also retains the soil fertility for the next growth cycle but it is not known to drive away elephants, he said.
A natural farmer in Pollachi, Madhu Ramakrishnan, said that he had tried several methods to keep animals away from his land but in vain. He is now planning to grow marigold, hoping it would curb such intrusions. “The only method that effectively controlled the straying of elephants into the fields was a stone fencing 4ft high that sloped causing some fear in the animal,” he added.
Another official from the horticulture department in the Nilgiris said that in the hills, farmers grow several flowers and spray cow urine to keep wild boars away. “It’s a tried and tested method” he said.
As none of the scientific methods have been successful, farmers are willing to adopt any method to reduce damages. However, activists believe that unless, farmers create a buffer area allowing the elephants to walk, no method would stop them from entering their fields.