Squirrels get nutty with hazelnuts

A hazelnut farm in Pasaphu village under Kangpara gewog, Trashigang

Hazelnut farmers of Pasaphu are losing most of their harvests to wild pests like the squirrels

SANGAY RABTEN | Phuentsholing

The hazelnut farmers of Pasaphu village under Kangpara gewog, Trashigang are facing a new predicament in their plantations as they experience growing encounters with wild pests like squirrels who steal away much of their hard-earned produce.  

Farmers said that they had invested and dedicated a lot of their efforts for the past decade to growing the nut on a commercial scale, often carrying the saplings on their bare backs and toiling hard in their fields.  

A grower, Tenzin, who planted hazelnuts on his one-acre farm, is yet to reap any benefits from his plantation. And, after years of waiting and hard work wild pests like boar, deer, monkeys, and primarily squirrels, which breach the electric fences, have now started invading their plantations.

 Another farmer, Nidup Dorji, said he is yet to reap any benefits from his 200 trees which are still to bear fruits. He said this is happening despite farmers following all instructions and cultivation techniques imparted to them by experts.

 Another farmer from the village Wangdi shares a similar concern. He said there is no fruiting from his hazelnut orchard.

However, unlike these distraught farmers, Jangchub saw a dimmer of hope after his two-acre farm finally started to fruit a little. However, he now feels demotivated to continue as wild pests had started marauding his plantations.

Jangchub said that while wild animals like boar, monkeys, and deers can be prevented from entering the orchard because of their electric fences, the squirrels are simply unstoppable.

Another hazelnut farmer, Menlam Dorji, could harvest only about 25 kilograms last year from the 100 trees that he has planted. However, this year the trees simply didn’t bear any fruits.

Tseten who invested about Nu 70,000 to plant hazelnuts on his two-acre farm is also yet to see his plantation fruition. He said his efforts and investments have simply not borne him any economic benefits to date.

Likewise, Karma Lhamo said that there are no fruits from her 600 hazelnut trees even after years of hard work and investment. She invested about Nu 30,000 to ferry the saplings from the road-head to her village as their village was not connected by a road those days.

To her dismay, the few nuts that were beginning to ripen were invaded by the squirrels and couldn’t harvest the nuts. Another farmer, Tshering Chenzom, shares a similar predicament as nothing is fruiting from the 700-trees she had planted.  

Meanwhile, the field extension officer of Mountain Hazelnut Venture of Kangapara gewog, Yeshi Wangdi, said that the fruiting of the trees has been affected due to insufficient pollinizer plants.

He added that revival programs have already started. The other reason that is affecting the fruiting progress could be due to climate change according to the field extension officer.

However, he said that the farmers should not get demotivated as the fruiting might improve after distributing pollinizer plants.