The practice of rearing buffaloes in Singeygang, Samtse is fast waning.
There are today only about five families who rear buffaloes in Singeygang. Ramlal Munda has a herd of 13 buffaloes. Many have sold the animal because of lack of good grazing grounds and dedicated herders.
Tshogpa Ram Prasad Sharma said that young people in the village are not interested to take up this practice.
At 63, Ramlal Munda is the oldest and among the few buffalo herders in Singeygang. At this time of the year, buffaloes are just left grazing in the fields. Ramlal Munda checks on the herd from time to time.
Ramlal Munda said rearing buffaloes is more profitable than rearing cows. The animal gives more milk and is more resilient. Dung quantity is also more, which is useful for biogas plants.
“A buffalo bull would fetch more than Nu 50,000 in the market today,” Ramlal Munda said.
Villagers say that there has not been much support from the government in buffalo rearing.
Dhanya Prasad Sharma said that recently government officials came to carry out an artificial insemination (AI) programme.
“This is a good sign,” he said, adding that more should be done to keep the practice alive.
The one buffalo that Dhanya Prasad Sharma’s family has had for the last five years has given birth to a healthy calf.
Dhanya Prasad Sharma said that keeping buffaloes would benefit local people economically and the government should support people to rear buffaloes.
Samtse’s livestock officer, Karma Wangdi, said that the government is aware of the scenario.
“People shifted their focus to jersey cows. That is why there is not many into buffalo rearing,” he said.
Karma Wangdi said that in 2010, a subsidy was provided. Four breeding bulls and 16 cows were distributed to two groups that included farmers in Singeygang. He added that equal importance is given to rearing cows and buffaloes.
The government has also leased a 90-acre land to Singeygang farmers. The land is meant for both cows and buffaloes. Livestock office has asked people to increase growing fodder in this land.
“They can also sell the fodder,” Karma Wangdi said.
Karma Wangdi said that interested farmers will be given additional support in the 12th Plan.
Along the borders of Singeygang, Sukur Muni has some healthy buffaloes. “We just leave them into the jungle,” she said. “They return on their own in the evening.”
Gauri Shankar Bhandari has the highest number of buffaloes in Singeygang. He has a herd of 15. “Buffaloes do not need care like cows do,” he said. “They are stronger and can plough more than oxen.”
Bishnu Maya Sharma from Namgaychholing said that getting a herder is not easy these days. “That is the real challenge.”
Rajesh Rai | Tashichholing