Land management: Joining the rest of the 194 countries of the United Nations to Combat Desertification, Bhutan observed the World Day to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation in Wooling Chiwog in Orong gewog, yesterday.

National Soil Service Centre (NSSC) organised the land management programme to celebrate the day with farmers with financial support from Bhutan Trust Fund and the government.

With the theme ‘protect earth, restore land, engage people’, the day to combat desertification was observed to create awareness on the adverse effects of desertification, land degradation, sustainable agriculture and climate change.

The event was also organised to enhance the capacity of the farmers, sensitise and implement sustainable land management (SLM) practice to combat land degradation.

Land management officer, Tshering Dorji, said the day is celebrated in different ways in different countries. Wooling was selected due to interest of the people and land terrain.

The focus was on land degradation because most of Bhutan’s agriculture land is on steep slopes where surface erosion is most extensive, said Tshering Dorji.  “Land degradation and desertification is prevalent in Bhutan, especially in the eastern and southern parts of the country because of rugged and steep land terrain.”

NSSC has taken the initiative to grow napier (fodder) on about 34 acres land belonging to 52 households in Orong and on about 16 acres in Wooling belonging to 22 households.

“We looked at the critical land and consulted the farmers although there were challenges to convince farmers because of small land holding and skeptical about result,” Tshering Dorji said. “We’ve also constructed lock check dams with bamboo to control surface erosion, planted bamboo rhizomes to establish the slope and enhance income generation.”

It is hoped that in next 10 years, pastureland will develop and retain the topsoil and nutrients. It is also expected that the farmers will share such practices and take up SLM.

Agriculture ministry has managed to bring more than 307 acres of vulnerable dry land under SLM practice.

Tshogpa Pema Dhendup said that the event was a blessing for the farmers of the chiwog. “We had major landslides in 2004 and lost half of our agriculture land. We had no idea that there were such measures to combat the slides. But now we know we can save our land.”

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrup Jongkhar