Farmers of Chudzom gewog in Sarpang are turning cardamom orchards into paddy fields.

While some farmers are preparing to transplant paddy, two farmers of Galithang chiwog have already begun the cultivation.

Dal Bahadur Rai, 48, said he planted paddy in his 30 decimal land earlier this week.

He said he uprooted all the cardamom plants, as it did not bear any fruit. He, however, sold the saplings.

Dal Bahadur said it was difficult for him to buy imported rice every year although he owned wetland. “The gewog and dzongkhag agriculture officials encouraged us to grow our own food.”

He said he converted all his land into cardamom orchard, barely leaving any space for a kitchen garden. “I have enough space to grow vegetable and paddy.”

Dal Bahadur sold at least 25kgs broccoli, 30kgs chilli, 50kgs cabbage and 15kgs radish. He has chilli, broccoli and cabbage growing in the garden at the moment.  

Dal Bahadur also transformed his brother’s 30 decimal cardamom orchard into a paddy field.

His neighbour, Pancham Rai, followed Dal Bahadur’s example.

He uprooted cardamom plants from 50 decimal land below his house.

He turned his paddy terraces into cardamom orchard three years ago.  

He will not be able to grow rice this season because of irrigation water shortage. “I will grow vegetables this season,” he said. “Next year I will get irrigation water.”

Meanwhile, Chudzom gup Bishnu Prasad Rai said few farmers, who turned their paddy field into cardamom orchard, are now returning to paddy cultivation.

He said shortage of irrigation water forced farmers to grow cardamom instead of paddy.

Citing the example of farmers in Lhayul chiwog, he said farmers relied solely on rainfall to transplant paddy until last year.

“Starting this year, they have a huge volume of water flowing to their field through a major irrigation project carried out by the department of agriculture last year,” the gup said.

The 7kms long piped irrigation channel benefits almost 80 households of Lhayul.

The gup said other 70 households continue to rely on rainfall and small streams. “But we learned the project was initially planned as 8km but only 7km was complete. If that one kilometre is done, it will cover the 70 remaining households as well.”

Chudzom gewog has a total of about 80-acre wetland of which at least 60 acres is cultivated today. 

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang