“We don’t rest, we keep on working morning to evening and at night we have to take care of the field.”
Under the weight of this declaration, we were invited to promote this Interspecies Peace Negotiation. Our Challenge was to find solutions to avoid wildlife consuming all the crops produced by humans, while always respecting all life forms.
Our task started in Punakha, where we visited, the College of Natural Research (CNR), our Fab Lab host in the Challenge, and the Agriculture Research & Development Center, to gain insights into Bhutan’s available technologies for addressing agricultural challenges. to protect plantations from wild animals. Our team consisted of seven foreign specialists and four from Bhutan.
It soon became clear that our challenge had expanded beyond the scope of preserving the crops; we were also on a mission to showcase the potential of Fab Labs to Bhutanese students.
After, we embarked on a journey to the remote mountain village of Lingmukha, where the plantations were nestled. This endeavor was a challenge in itself due to the narrow, treacherous road that could barely accommodate two vehicles passing in opposite directions. Our bus still bogged down and it took a lot of help to get back on track without falling off the cliff, but there was nothing this team couldn’t solve.
Upon our arrival, the villagers greeted us with their finest attire. accompanied us UNDP and Fab Foundation representatives. Following a heartwarming ceremony, we divided into small groups to visit the fields and interview local farmers regarding their challenges.
The plantations featured a variety of fences designed to deter wild boars and other animals. Some were rudimentary, while others, like electrical and chaining fences, proved more effective. However, the latter was deemed the best deterrent, despite its high cost.
After a day spent in the fields and engaging with the farmers, it became evident that they required assistance, not necessarily in creating entirely new solutions, but in enhancing their existing defenses. Back in the city, our team held numerous meetings to brainstorm potential avenues for support.
We based our proposal solutions in some criteria:
– Acceptable by farmers
– Cost-effective (low cost & high effectiveness)
– Not harmful or deadly to animals (conservation policy)
– Technology-based (fit with fab lab mindset)
– Self-sustainable by farmers
– User friendly
– Educational (solution should be part of an ecosystem involving students)
– Eco friendly
– Not ugly (beautiful)
After analyzing existing solutions and possible approaches, the team decided on further developing 3 of them:
1. Enhance the existing electric fence – FENCE MONITORING SYSTEM
The electrical fence, while effective, posed challenges in terms of maintenance. To address this, we devised a monitoring system that could detect circuit defects and communicate via IoT to an app connecting students at the university with the farmers for swift repairs.
2. Natural fence, using accessible material – BAMBOO CHAIN LINK FENCE
Regarding the chain link fence, we explored the possibility of a prototype made from a composite of bamboo powder, fabric, and resin, facing the possibility of a more affordable alternative.
3. Repellent kit for any fence – ALARM SYSTEM
Recognizing the need for territorial demarcation, we developed an alarm system to be integrated into the fences. This system would detect approaching wild animals through sound and movement, especially during the night, and trigger three distinct alarms:
- A sound-based repellent to scare the animals.
- Dazzling Laser lights to scare away the birds.
- Pungent spray dispenser to drive away the animals with wolf urine smell.
With these innovative solutions, we aimed not only to protect plantations from wildlife intrusion but also to foster community collaboration between the university and local farmers while respecting the animals.
It was an incredible and intense experience to be able to be in contact with these people and work together with a wonderful team searching and developing solutions. Now we hope that the farmers and the community can have the necessary support to improve and implement the solutions proposed, being finally able to rest when they need.
This article was written by the Interspecies Peace Negotiation Team:
Angela Barbour, ElloraAteliê-Fabricademy Node Brazil; Henk Buursen, Waag Futurelab, The Netherlands; Kencho Wangdi, CNR FabLab, Bhutan; Kenneth Cheung, NASA, USA; Maria Isabel Oschery, Federation of Industries, Brazil; Quentin Bolsee, MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, Belgium; Rafael Calado, BioLab Lisboa, Portugal; Rajesh Rai, CNR, Bhutan; Siddharth Kulkarni, Vigyan Ashram Fab Lab, India; Sonam Tshering, CNR, Bhutan, Tshering Pemo, Bhutan and Yeshi Tshorno, CST, Bhutan.
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