Neten Dorji

Trashiyangtse – Almost one-third of the total fields in Trashiyangtse dzongkhag have been left fallow leading to a loss in crop production and increasing human-wildlife conflicts.

According to records from the dzongkhag agriculture office, of the 15,695.56 acres of dry land, about 4,742.06 acres are left fallow. Of 3,698.08 acres of wetland, 943.64 remain uncultivated.

Difficult terrain, lack of irrigation water, human-wildlife conflicts, and shortage of farm hands due to emptying of households, among others, are some of the commonly cited reasons for the increasing fallowing of fields.

Farmers said that while imports have increased they are not in a position to market their produce out of their villages which discourages farmers from cultivating crops.

Yallang gewog has 1,378.22 acres of fallow land which is the highest among eight gewog followed by 992.12 acres in Ramjar gewog, 712.1 acres of fallow land in Khamdang and 681.45 in Jamkhar. The problem of fallowing land has become widespread across all eight gewogs in the dzongkhag.

Farmers say the frequent wildlife raids are seriously affecting and hampering their efforts and are a serious challenge to their livelihood and increasing agricultural production.

Tashi, 33, from Khamdang said that the crops were damaged by monkeys during the day and wild boars at night. “This discourages us from taking up farming and acres of farmlands have also been left fallow.”

Dorji from Toedtsho goes to the field every night to guard his crops against invading wild animals.“Monkeys, wild boars, deer, and porcupines often cause severe damage to our fruits and agricultural products that we grow on our little farm.”

Toedtsho Gup Dechen Wangdi said fallow land is increasing annually mainly due to human-wildlife conflict and the migration of people to towns.

“Farming inputs such as improved seeds, chain-link fencing facilities and machinery need to be in place to curb the fallow land issue,” he said. “Moreover, internal irrigation facilities should be made available for wetlands to encourage farmers to cultivate land.”

He said the absence of farm roads also discourages farmers from cultivating land.

Local leaders say irrigation water is usually drawn from small streams that are mostly not perennial.

“Irrigation water is dependent mostly on the monsoon. People cultivate wetlands only if there is timely rainfall,” said a local leader. “Moreover, irrigation canals are damaged by landslides during monsoon.”

Agriculture officials said, as per their policy, they are reviving fallow land and encouraging farmers to give more importance to agriculture.

“Shortage of manpower and absence of young people in rural families to take up farming activities are the main reasons for keeping lands fallow,” said an Official.

Dzongkhag agriculture officer, Chimmi Drakpa, said the installation of chain-link fencing to protect the crops from wild animals and the supply of women-friendly farm machinery would address the fallow land.

He said dzongkhag focuses more on farm product enterprises to reduce the rural-urban migration.

“For instance, the Urka Bangla pickle processing unit and Peanut processing unit are doing well in Trashiyangtse. More of these enterprises would encourage farmers to continue farming activities.”

As a measure to reduce the fallowing of land due to human-wildlife conflict, farmers are provided with electric fencing.  Officials, however, say that most of the farmers are not willing to take ownership of the fencing.

The dzongkhag’s agriculture office is also encouraging dropout and unemployed youths to take up farming and make use of the fallow lands. The response from the young,  however, has been lukewarm.