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Hole in the rice bowl: Radhi farmers in Trashigang experienced drastic drop in rice yield this year
Hole in the rice bowl: Radhi farmers in Trashigang experienced drastic drop in rice yield this year

Paddy yield drops in Radhi for want of water

Neten Dorji | Radhi

Paddy harvest is almost over in Radhi gewog, the rice bowl of eastern Bhutan. Not many farmers are seen threshing paddy on the terraces.

Usually, many farmers would be still threshing paddy around this time of the year. But this year has been an unusual season from the start.

Farmers said that their paddy fields remained parched for weeks in the absence of adequate irrigation or timely monsoon rain.

Tandin Wangchuk, 70, said because of water shortage paddy transplantation was delayed by more than a month. “With water sources remaining dry until May, we had to wait for the monsoon to arrive,” he said. This, he said was affecting the timely growth of paddy resulting in a poorer yield.

“Those who would harvest up to two metric tonnes (MT) of paddy every year have harvested about 1.5MT this year,” he said.

Most of the farmers in Radhi gewog depend on monsoon and sometimes they wait longer than a month to transplant.

A farmer, Ouchi said that except for Tongling chiwog, the remaining four chiwogs of Jonla, Pakaling, Kadam and Togshingmang harvested fewer paddies. “Tongling has a proper irrigation water supply, they enjoyed a better harvest,” she said.

Shacha Wangmo (white) and a friend winnow paddy in Tshatse village
Shacha Wangmo (white) and a friend winnow paddy in Tshatse village

She said farmers have to depend mostly on monsoon during transplantation since most irrigation canals are washed away or have become defunct.

Of the total 1,258.91 acres of wetland in the gewog, 1,238.16 acres are under paddy cultivation which has earned the gewog the title – ‘The Rice Bowl of the East’.

The farmers in the gewog are faced with acute irrigation water supply and increasing wild animal attacks on crops.

Another farmer, Kinzang Choden said the yield from her two-acre paddy field was comparatively lower this year.

“The dry spell followed by erratic heavy rainfall could be the reason for the poor yield,” she said. “Moreover, wild animals rummaging the crops had only worsened the situation and cost her almost 200Kg.”

Another villager, Shacha Wangmo, said that the problem of not having a proper source had been affecting them. “With funding from government, we tried to channel water from Yudiri in 2012 but flooding of the river damaged the irrigation channel.”

Apart from producing one of the largest quantity of rice in the east, Radhi is also known for the different varieties of rice it grows.

According to Shacha Wangmo the gewog produces nine varieties of which Sorbang and Sung-sung rice are much sought after across the country today.

Shacha Wangmo said the rice native to Radhi called Aassu is not grown in the gewog anymore. “My great grandfather used to offer Aassu to poen or high lama. Now Sorbang and Sung-Sung are the new native rice to Radhi,” she said.

Meanwhile, Radhi Gup Kulung, said they are going to come up with a stable source for irrigation water from Lingchen. “Dzongkhag administration has approved Nu 0.43 million budget from dzongkhag development grant to construct the canal.”

Gup Kulung said, the gewog administration is planning to draw water from Yudiri stream source in the next fiscal year to solve the irrigational water problem in four chiwogs.  “Otherwise, the yield would completely depend on the arrival of monsoon.”

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