Agriculture: To mitigate farm labour shortages and to improve accessibility of the farm machinery to the marginal farmers who cannot afford to own machines, the agriculture ministry issued a power tiller each to eight gewogs in Thimphu yesterday.

The ministry has supplied a power tiller each to 178 gewogs in the country so far. The remaining 27 gewogs in Trongsa, Zhemgang, Bumthang, and Paro will receive the machine by October 10.

The machines will be stationed in respective gewogs and the ministry’s gewog extension officers (GEO) will manage and hire the power tiller. GEOs will also employ machine operators.

The works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden, said that the ultimate aim of distributing the power tillers is not to fulfill government’s pledge but to benefit the people by putting the machine to maximum utilization to boost agriculture production in gewogs to achieve food security in the country.

The Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) recommended Nu 500 a day as remuneration for operators and the operator shall be paid even if the machine operation in the field on the particular day is incomplete due to break down or natural calamities.

The AMC’s programme director, Karma Thinley, said that most of the farmers don’t know that the ministry provides agricultural machinery other than power tiller on hire. The ministry hires about 160 machines throughout the country.

“Since 2014, the ministry provided the hiring service to about 12,000 households of 52 gewogs in 15 dzongkhags, working in more than 9,500 acres of farmland,” said Karma Thinley. “We hope that power tillers will make farming less labourious and attractive to youth, contributing towards mitigating rural-urban migration.”

The present approved hiring rate for power tiller is Nu 1,400 a day (eight working hours). The hiring rates include machine operators’ charge, fuel, and basic maintenance. The advance payment should be made in cash and, failing to do so, farmers will not be provided the hiring services.

A power tiller costs Nu 360,000 without subsidy.

Hiring power tillers to farmers started almost a year before the government pledged at least one for each chiwog.

Dechen Tshomo