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Sun, 23 Sep 2018

Northeast Today

For Jumbos, With Love!

For Jumbos, With Love!
February 20
16:04 2018

January Edition, Making A Difference, NET Bureau, Sayantani Deb

At a time when man-animal conflicts have become a regular affair across Assam and almost every day we get reports of man-animal conflicts from various corners of the state, Tenzing Bodosa—a farmer from remote Kachibari village of Udalguri district is mulling to make the world a safer place for jumbos. In June 2017, Bodosa’s tea-estate was tagged as World’s 1st Elephant Friendly Garden.

In this mechanical world, there is a rarity of people who walks an extra mile to make the planet a better place to live in. Tenzing Bodosa is one such individual who, despite facing various hurdles, is trying his best to make the world a better place for jumbos.

A Class VI drop-out, Bodosa left his village at the age of 10 after his father’s and brother’s, uncle’s death.

“I was 6 years old when my father,middle brother and other five members of my family were gunned down by illegal immigrates. The incident completely changed our lives and my mother was scared that they could even harm me, so she sent me to Guwahati,” said Bodosa while speaking to Northeast Today.

Bodosa worked in hotels, construction sites in various parts of India and then joined a Malaysian construction company.

“13 years outside the village changed me completely as in those years I learnt driving, mechanic work, and also the ways to set up a small factory, which increased my self-confidence,” he added.

It was in 2006, when Bodosa finally decided to come back and take care of his ancestral farm.

“Earlier, my family was more into growing paddy and other vegetables, however by the time I came back everyone was growing tea in Assam. So, accordingly to promote the tea of my garden I started visiting several tea farms and then only I came to know that tea could be easily exported outside India,” he shared.

Coming to know this, Bodosa too decided to grow tea in his farm. But as his family had never grown tea, he had no idea about tea cultivation. Hence, he went to tea experts.

“Most of the tea experts suggested me to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides and advised to buy genetically modified seeds. As they believe this is the best way to get the fastest and highest yield. Being a layman, I followed their instructions. However, whenever Bodosa used to spray pesticide on his farm, he would get a headache and nausea. Even his mother didn’t like the idea of using chemicals in field, as my ancestors always used organic fertilisers. That prompted me to start looking for alternatives”, he added.

Post doing online research he came to know about Dr L Narayan Reddy from Doddaballapur in Bangalore. He went to Bangalore to take up classes on organic farming but was not satisfied with the training.

Finally in 2007, Bodosa came in contact with ‘Fertile ground’ a Canadian NGO who invited and trained him on organic farming.

“After coming to Assam, there was no looking back and I set up a small processing unit and started selling my tea in Canada, German, US and UK through a tea company,” he informed, adding, “It was Fertile Ground that helped to promote my products in global market.”

Currently, Bodosa has around 25 acres of land from which he earns around Rs 60-70 lakhs per annum.

Jumbo-Friendly Tea-Garden

Speaking about his love for elephants, he shares, “Since childhood I have been always intrigued towards elephants. I still remember when I was young my father used to take me on elephants rides.”

The most interesting part of his farm is the buffer zone, which is the area at the end of his farm from where the jungle begins at the Bhutan border. He has left that part of the farm as is. He does not cut down the trees or start a fire there; instead he has planted bamboo trees on which the wild elephants feed. He has also not put any barriers in and around his plantation, so that the wild animals from the jungle can freely move in his farm.

At times, you can see at least 70-80 wild elephants in his farm. Hornbills, wild pigs, deer, peacock and a variety of birds is a common sight there.

Like every farmer, Bodosa also suffered losses, however, he realised what wild animals are destroying is something little as compared to the fact what humans are doing with the animals. Bodosa’s hard work yielded success and in June 2017, his tea-garden was tagged as World’s 1st elephant friendly garden.

Man-Animal Conflict

With the increase in population forest encroachment is rising rapidly in Assam. “We, humans, have been encroaching into their lands and eventually forget whose home it was in the first place,” Bodosa said, adding, “It is unfortunate to say that in Assam many farmers, selfishly only focus on the respective production and does not think about the wild animals that are staying in near-by jungles.”

Final Words

In conclusion of this enriching tete-e-tete, Bodosa suggests his fellow farmer friends to build buffer zones in their respective gardens and grow crops and fruits such as elephant apple, banana which can quell the hunger of wild animals.

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