Agri­cul­tural prac­tice in Phob­jikha un­sus­tain­able

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Sonam Pen­jor

Un­sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural prac­tice presents the great­est im­mea­di­ate threat to agri­cul­ture prod­ucts of the peo­ple liv­ing in Phob­jikha.

At the time of potato plan­ta­tion, the lo­cal peo­ple make ver­ti­cal rows (cross con­tour line) to fa­cil­i­tate wa­ter drainage be­cause potato is grown dur­ing rainy sea­son.

How­ever, this prac­tice has led to se­ri­ous soil ero­sion in the farm­ing area and loss of soil nu­tri­ents in the process.

There­fore, some house­holds are in­clined to prac­tice shift­ing cul­ti­va­tion, while oth­ers, hav­ing run out of op­tions, use huge quan­ti­ties of chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers to com­pen­sate the loss of nu­tri­ents.

The Phob­jikha val­ley is home to about 500 house­holds and ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 peo­ple who mostly de­pend on potato, turnip and buck wheat farm­ing.

Speak­ing to BT, the Gup of Phobji Ge­wog, Jamt­sho, said, “Peo­ple are ex­pect­ing good prod­ucts and chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers have been used for the agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion to in­crease the potato yields and qual­ity for sev­eral decades.”

There­fore, he said there has been an in­creas­ing con­cern over the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of agri­cul­tural fer­til­iz­ers. “Chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers soften the soil and maks it prone to ero­sion,” he said, ad­ding that the chem­i­cals washed thus away harms the en­vi­ron­ment.

A sur­vey con­ducted by Royal So­ci­ety for Pro­tec­tion of Na­ture (RSPN) in 2003 in­di­cated that the house­holds in Phob­jikha use more than 160 tons of dif­fer­ent kinds of chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers per year for potato cul­ti­va­tion. No such sur­vey has been con­ducted af­ter that.

The peo­ple of the val­ley rear cows but they hardly use ma­nure for their fields.

The ge­wog ex­ten­sion su­per­vi­sor, Pema Gey­leg, said the or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers can be pre­pared lo­cally but chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers lead to high yields and fetch a higher mar­ket price.

“The use of or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers help main­tain the soil struc­ture and in­creases its nu­tri­en­thold­ing ca­pac­ity,” he said. He added that farm­ers who prac­tice or­ganic farm­ing for many years will re­quire far less fer­til­iz­ers be­cause the soil would have be­come al­ready rich in es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents.

Pass­ing Tob­gay, a lo­cal farmer, said chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers pro­tect the crops from in­sects as well as in­crease the yield.

The an­nual report of RSPN 2015 ob­served that, with con­sis­tent de­ple­tion of for­est in the moun­tains, un­sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tice on the hill­side is lead­ing to se­ri­ous soil ero­sion in some parts of the val­ley.

The Black-necked crane habi­tat in the val­ley is reg­u­larly main­tained by graz­ing cat­tle, but soil sil­ta­tion along the streams from the hill­side is likely to re­duce the area avail­able for crane roost­ing.

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