He and a few of his colleagues were the reason why the village appeared on the radar of governments, politicians, and researchers. “Bahundangi has produced many PhDs,” says Luitel who has helped researchers develop strategies to reduce risk and diversify the income of farmers by planting cash crops such as bay leaf and tea that the elephants did not raid. “These days, the locals are not as hostile towards elephants and us anymore.”
There is an 18-km long electric fence along the Mechi River, between the forested tracts in India where the elephants come from and the crop fields in Bahundangi. Luitel was involved in building this fence, designed to keep the elephants out.
But Luitel admits that it is only a temporary solution. Eventually, he says, the only way is co-existence. For this, he feels that the government must recognise the struggles of the people of Bahundangi, provide subsidised healthcare and education, and create jobs.