Dry & bar­ren

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Jigme Wangchen

There was a time when Bum­tap Me­mey, now 70, re­sid­ing in Kan­glung, Trashigang used to cul­ti­vate boun­ti­ful har­vests of maize and po­ta­toes in his field.

But now, he is too old to till his land and his chil­dren are ei­ther work­ing in Thim­phu or study­ing. So the short­age of la­bor has forced him to aban­don farm­ing, leav­ing his land fal­low.

He now runs a small shop to sup­port him­self.

Like Bum­tap Me­mey, many ru­ral house­holds in Trashigang have left huge swathes of land fal­low. They are ei­ther jun­gles or just dry, al­most desert-like stretches of land. And the fal­low­ing of land has been in­creas­ing over the years caus­ing con­cern to vil­lagers and au­thor­i­ties alike.

Land records of 201718 main­tained with the Dzongkhag Agri­cul­ture Of­fice re­veal that of a to­tal of 12,683.65 acres of dry land in the dzongkhag, 6,783.11 acres have been left fal­low and of a to­tal of 2,975.97 acres of wet­land in the dzongkhag, 888.54acres have been left fal­low.

From 2015 to 2016, of a to­tal of 4,083.34 acres of dry land in the dzongkhag, about 4,104 acres were left fal­low and of 21,529.6 acres of wet land,

7,025.78 acres of wet­land re­main un­cul­ti­vated.

Dzongkhag Agri­cul­ture Of­fi­cer (DAO) DC Bhan­dari said that un­avail­abil­ity of ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels, hu­man-wildlife con­flict, the dif­fi­cult ter­rain and the short­age of farm­ers due to ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion are some of the com­mon rea­sons for the in­creas­ing fal­low­ing of land.

Some 180 acres of land re­mained fal­low in Kan­glung gewog in 2015-16, how­ever, it has in­creased to 310.66 acres of fal­low land as per re­cent records.

A Kan­glung res­i­dent said that com­pared to past years, farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties have be­come more con­ve­nient due to easy ac­cess to mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties like power tillers, wa­ter sup­ply, farm roads and mar­kets.

“But hu­man wildlife con­flict has con­trib­uted a lot to agri­cul­tural prac­tice de­cline lead­ing to fal­low­ing of lands,” he said.

How­ever, he feels that the chief rea­son for fal­low land is ru­ral to ur­ban mi­gra­tion and empty house­holds (gung­tongs). “The younger gen­er­a­tion opts to mi­grate to ur­ban ci­ties, which causes la­bor short­age in ru­ral ar­eas thus caus­ing fal­low­ing.”

An ob­server said that with vil­lages emp­ty­ing and lands be­ing left wild, Bhutan will need to im­port more food pro­duce and this will leave a dent in the coun­try’s dream of self suf­fi­ciency.

Bartsham Mangmi Gatu said that as an al­ter­na­tive source of in­come, a few vil­lagers are try­ing to adopt mod­ern dairy and poul­try farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Mean­while, he said that some farm­ers keep their land fal­low for a pe­riod of time to get bet­ter yield in terms of qual­ity and quan­tity.

Ugyen Phuntsho from Bartsham gewog said that lack of wa­ter sup­ply and ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties makes farm­ing dif­fi­cult for the vil­lagers.

Fal­low­ing of land has be­come so com­mon that even in Radhi, the rice bowl of the east, fields are left un­cul­ti­vated. Some 1,964.9 acres of land (wet and dry land) re­main fal­low in the gewog.

The DAO said that the lack of ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels in Radhi is one of the ma­jor fac­tors lead­ing to the fal­low­ing of land. “Some of the ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels in the gewog were dam­aged by land­slides dur­ing mon­soon.”

Other com­mon rea­sons lead­ing to fal­low land in Radhi are lack of la­bor, hu­man-wildlife con­flict and wa­ter short­age, ac­cord­ing to the DAO.

To com­bat this wor­ry­ing phe­nom­e­non, the Dzongkhag Agri­cul­ture Of­fice is en­cour­ag­ing dropouts and un­em­ployed youth to take up farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and make use of the fal­low land.

“As an­other mea­sure to re­duce fal­low­ing of land due to hu­man­wildlife con­flict, farm­ers are pro­vided with elec­tric fenc­ing,” added the DAO.

But ac­cord­ing to the DAO, most farm­ers are not will­ing to take up own­er­ship of the fenc­ing be­cause then they would have to main­tain the fenc­ing.

How­ever, the de­part­ment is any how plan­ning to en­cour­age the use of elec­tric fenc­ing and con­struct ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels to stop the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fal­low land, said the DAO.

Tshe­wang Dem, the founder of Tshe­jor’s Ayzey, is the win­ner of the Na­tional Trademark Award 2018.

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