The town of Kodaikanal situated in the Palani Hills, is surrounded by villages, some which are about 500 to 600 years old. Agriculture was and still is the primary revenue source for the inhabitants of these villages. An hour’s drive from the hill station, in any direction, will get you to beautifully cut terraced fields of carrots, radish and garlic to name a few. Palani Hills is also home to many animals that find these crops irresistible! So what have local communities done to protect their crops?
Today there are many different kinds of fences farmers use to protect their crops. Rich farmers use electric fencing or chain link fences, smaller farmers however, use traditional, low cost options to keep away wild boars, gaurs and deer from raiding crops. Interestingly, one of them is a sari! Saris are often seen tied along the fence in many villages in the region. According to Chedumani, who owns 2 acres of land in Poondi village, colourful saris blind wild boars and they run away. Another farmer, Vijayan from Kukkal, says animals look at the saris and mistake them for people and run away.
In fact, this unique use of a sari has given rise to a new market in places like Kodaikanal and Palani. Old saris are sold for as little as Rs 5 just so they can be used for fencing. Farmers say, this method costs less than half the cost of conventional fences liked barbed wire or chain link fencing. A 2 acre farm would cost approximately Rs 20,000 to fence. But a sari fence would cost less than Rs 5000.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi too agrees with the experience of farmers. In fact they claim that this technique can minimize damage by wild boars to crops by 45%-60%. (Pawan Kumar Agrawal, Abraham Verghese, Sindhu Radhakrishna, Kesavan Subaharan: Human Animal Conflict in Agro-Pastoral Context: Issues & Policies, ICAR 2016).
However, Prabhakar from Kukkal disagrees. According to him no fence can really stop wild boar or gaur from entering a field if they really wanted to. All fences do is to temporarily halt the animal by which time domestic dogs bark to alert the farmer, so he/she can chase the animal away. Prabhakar thinks, in this regard, the sari fence is as good as any other.
1. Dhruv Athreye in February 2018 began a survey of mammals in the Palani Hills and is publishing notes of his field work.