Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Dechen Norbu from Sangnyerphai in Chali is the only farmer growing spring paddy in Mongar.

Last year, Dechen Norbu harvested around 500kg paddy from around a langdo of rice field. He also had surplus to sell around 40 kg of rice which sold them at around Nu 60 per kg at the vegetable market shed in Mongar town.

Dechen Norbu has cultivated paddy in about a two-langdo land this season.

“After growing spring paddy, I didn’t have to buy rice from the market and I am hoping for a better yield this year,” he said.

Growing spring paddy was made possible with the support from Agriculture Research Development Centre (ARDC) in Wengkhar. The first project to commercialise spring paddy in four sites covering 533 acres in three dzongkhags (Gelephu-136 acres, Chuzargang-185 acres, Yoeseltse-118 acres, and Khameathang-94 acres) was initiated by Department of Agriculture, MoAF in 2017.

In the east, ARDC in collaboration with dzongkhag agriculture sectors initiated spring paddy programme in Mongar and Samdrupjongkhar (Phuntshothang-10 acres, Jamgsawom-4 acres). A total of 26 households were engaged in spring rice cultivation in around 15 acres of land.

In Mongar, only Chali gewog was selected and the ARDC-Wengkhar provided technical backstopping along with inputs such as 45 kg of seeds, polythene sheets and fertilizers.

The spring paddy focal person from ARDC-Wengkhar, Kinzang Thinley, said the eastern part of Bhutan was predominated by maize with limited rice production. Rice import was almost 50 percent. Modern farming practice would help fulfil the national mandate of achieving 65 percent rice self-sufficiency, he said.

According to officials, in the east, the spring paddy initiative was started in 2018 with evaluation of four paddy varieties. The farmers selected Samtenling Sokha Ray. It is believed that the yield from the variety is around 1.2 metric tons of rice per acre.

ARDC-Wengkhar plans to carry out suitability mapping of spring paddy in the region for promotional programme, develop complete package of practice (PoP) for spring paddy production in the form of pamphlets and brochures. The complete promotional programme package will be handed to the dzongkhag agriculture sector.

“This will help utilise scarce wetland twice a year for rice production,” Kinzang Thinley said.

Officials said they were in the process of studying the impacts of spring paddy cultivation. “In the long run, if more farmers come forward to take up this initiatives, it will definitely uplift the socioeconomic position of farmers,” Kinzang Thinley said.

The spring paddy programme was supported by CARLEP-IFAD project.