hackproject.org — In Need for an innovative Scarecrow — (July, 2016)

Birds watching while people prepare field for rice planting in Balthali

Birds sometimes are a big nuisance, that is why we put Putali (scarecrow) in our fields. Most times Putali does not work and we send out the kids to shout and chase the birds away”, Maila Kazi Tamang says. Maila tells that birds have started to frequent his fields, in the scenic Balthali valley, more often than before. As forests, open fields and even agricultural fields start to dwindle, birds are finding food less and less.

Maila tends to his yam and eggplant garden

Birds are facing a 2 sided problem. First is of less availability of food and the second of increased danger due to inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. Most fields use these to get better yield.

Birds are good for agriculture. Maila is more than excited to have birds around his fields. He says they do a lot more good than harm, but sometimes mainly during plantation of seeds and during ripening of seeds they become nuisance. Wild birds, migrating birds and even birds kept at households tend to go out to the fields and pick the seeds. Maila says the most harmful are flocks of pigeons and migrating birds. Migrating birds can come in the hundreds and eat whatever they can find on their way, but they are more temporary. Pigeons are more more residential, but come in nearly every day.

Maila explains his bird problems

The traditional methods for chasing the birds have been either making scarecrows and/or chasing them regularly. Scarecrows most times are not very effective. Chasing regularly requires people. So people have to give up the work they are doing to tend to birds. Valuable work time is lost when there are short windows to plant seeds. Sometime seeds have to be planted again.

“Shouting and chasing with catapult is fun for kids, but becomes a nuisance for us”

The overall process involves finding out that birds are in the field where the seed plantation has been done. Then chasing them by creating some sort of disturbance. This process could be repeated multiple times a day for a period until the plants grow to a certain level after which birds will not eat them.

My son, Prasiddha, tries the catapult while Hanja looks on

Hanja, a farmer from Biratnagar in the Terai region of Nepal, says the best method he uses is to randomly shoot mud balls with a catapult. He spends every evening making 20–30 mud balls for the next day. He carries a catapult constantly and uses it as soon as he sees flocks of birds, mainly pigeons, in the field. Sometimes the birds get hit. Most times he just creates disturbances. He has been carrying a catapult from the time he was 5 years old. Its been 40 years now.

Hanja explains bird problem while his family watches on

Maila and Hanja, both feel that if there could be some simple way to detect and chase these birds, then they would not have to worry about it. Both regret having injured or killed many birds during their chases. They said that if they could be provided with some simple tool or method by which these birds could be warded off without any intervention from them it would be great. Even if they are somehow informed then that would also be of help.

Excited to further explore the problem and to look around for existing solutions, I came across a lot of tutorials that people had created for things like car speed detector, random noise generator and motion detector. Most were using the cheap raspberry pi along with few sensors and open source softwares to hack tools that could do a lot of things. Thinking along similar lines, I have wondered if similar tools could be utilized to create simple, cheap, yet reliable scarecrow that people like Maila and Hanja could make use of. Can hacks be created that will allow scarecrows to be modernized?

“Can a simple technology be developed for a digital scarecrow based on the raspberry pi and sensors?”

Krishna Dai lives and farms in grounds that is at the boundary of Chitwan National Park. When food is scarce inside the National Park, animals and birds come to feed in his fields. Sometimes deer and Rhinos destroy his entire crop. This has led to a lot of conflict among the people and animals in the National Park. Krishna Dai says many efforts have been done to reduce this conflict. Some include having night watches to installing sirens. He says if simple, reliable method or technology would be provided to him and people in his village they would happily install them as the conflict brings much losses in terms of harvest and legal issues due to the animals being protected.

“Can the digital scarecrow be extended to ward off wild animals?”

Can the scarecrow be extended in some way to tackle this too? — Tweet This

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