Mahfuzul Haque

Affiliation: Department of Sociology, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Email: [email protected]

Abstract: Outbreak of rodent population due to bamboo flowering is a scientifically accepted phenomenon happening in the South Asian region of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar for ages. The dominant gregarious bamboo species in the region generally flower on a 40-50 year cycle. Rats feed on the seeds. Expansion of the rat population occurs through reproductive rate. When the bamboo seeds eventually become scarce, the rats move out into agricultural fields and rural communities in search of food, eating everything they can find and create food insecurity in a jhum-based economy, otherwise known for food abundance. People’s livelihood is at stake. Damages caused by the rats in the Chittagong Hills are 4-5 times more than seen in other parts of the country. Following devouring of field crops, the rats get into people’s houses, eating stored food and damaging all sorts of personal possessions, even biting people while they sleep. A potential threat of bubonic plague loom large entering from plague-endemic neighbouring country of Myanmar. Similar attack in 2006 in the north eastern state of Mizoram, India entered Bangladesh in late 2007 continued till 2015 causing food insecurity in an area, otherwise known once as a “bread basket”. Rat infestation is a slow onset natural disaster, not known to many and is particularly a dreadful event that periodically visit the Jhum areas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh. Based mainly on secondary sources of literature and the author’s extensive field work during writing of his dissertation, the paper argues that due to indigenous knowledge and practices of the local tribal communities, rat menace was curbed substantially. The paper looked at various methods applied by the local communities starting from trapping, use of repellants, rodent proofing and barriers, use of predators, various environmental and cultural methods in reducing the damages. The paper comes up with some recommendations based on age-old practices of the indigenous community.

Keywords: Bamboo Flowering; Rat Floods; Rodent; Chittagong Hill Tracts; Jhum Cultivation.