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Water shortage prevents villagers from planting potatoes

Gewog authorities said what the village produced was minimal to consider a bigger supply

Winter Crop: This winter, villagers of Kheri under Samkhar gewog in Trashigang have hung up their spades and left their fields fallow, unlike winters in the past.

The season is normally a time where farmers in the east sow potatoes for sale in the Indian market.

Kheri a tiny hamlet, nestled on a ramp like slope above Trashigang fuel depot, of 12 households located around 3km away from Trashigang town, have their fields turned dry and lifeless for cattle to stray.

Although Kheri villagers grow maize and vegetables like spinach, chilies, garlic and radish in summer as their main crops for consumption and for sale both in local market and in India, potatoes become their cash crop in winter.

Potato cultivation, however, ceased this winter.

“This time we didn’t sow potato because of water shortage,” a Kheri villager Dawa Tshering said.

Kheri has been facing shortage of water for cultivation of potato in winter.

Until, last year the villagers managed to water their potato plantation from Kheridrang on the left side of the village, about five minutes walk.

“This year, that has also dried up,” he said.

“Drinking water couldn’t be used for watering the fields because households downhill would face drinking water shortages,” another villager from Kheri Tenzin Dorji said.

Drinking water has been diverted from Chamkhari source located in a tiny gorge above the village, about 20 minutes walk from the village.

“The mini supply was built during the 9th plan,” Tenzin Dorji said. “Even drinking water is now barely enough for drinking and washing.”

Potato has been a good source of cash income to Kheripas for many years.

“Since, it is off-farm season in many parts of the country, potato from our village normally fetched good price,” another villager from Kheri, Wangchuk said.

Cultivation of 300kg of potatoes worth Nu 2,400 to Nu 3,000 fetched Kheri farmers more than Nu 9,000.

Annually the village produced more than 12 tonnes of potato.

“During the off-season the crop fetches us at least Nu 12- Nu 20 a kilogram,” Tenzin Dorji said. “The money would be used for our children’s schooling during the new academic session besides buying other farm equipment and seeds.”

Besides for farming purposes, Kheri, its villagers said was in need of water more than ever.

“Since the dzongkhag is planning to expand Trashigang town we want to build new houses for which we would need bigger water supply,” Dawa Tshering said.

Given its proximity to Trashigang town, it bodes well for Kheri villagers to get into housing business.

But they needed a reliable source of water, without which, rental apartments would find no takers.

Kheri villagers also said that the gewog authority had removed the new water supply plan for the village from the 11th plan.

“We were supposed to get a bigger and more reliable water supply from Mithidrang to cater to both our irrigation and drinking needs,” Dawa Tshering said.

Samkhar gup Sonam Dorji, however, said Kheri did not produce potatoes in large scale as to benefit the kind of water supply they demand.

“They never had irrigation channel because only those villages with paddy fields are entitled to the facility,” Sonam Dorji said.

Besides, he said a bigger water supply would be difficult to fund from the gewog budget because of the ceiling, which has been capped at Nu 30M for five years.

“For bringing bigger water supply, we would need huge budget which I think would be met by municipal once it is included in the town area,” Sonam Dorji said.

By Tempa Wangdi,  Trashigang

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