Phub Dem | Paro

Hiring oxen was more convenient than using the gewog’s power tiller in most gewogs in Paro. Farmers had to wait for hours for it to arrive and at times it won’t even start.

Except for Dopshari gewog and some chiwogs, others have returned the gewog power tillers to Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (FMCL).

The power tiller promise was linked to increasing farm produce through farm mechanisation to achieve self-reliance in food production.

However, the distribution came with problems concerning maintenance and utilisation. While the machine was distributed to every gewog during the last government’s tenure to help farmers, many issues arose.

Farmers said that while the machine was helpful the way it was managed gave way to numerous problems including getting a trained operator.

Yeshi Tshomo from Tsento said that the operators didn’t care about the machine as it was the state property. “Some people even exchanged their old machine parts with the gewog’s tiller.”

With all these issues, Yeshi Tshomo and many from the gewog bought their own power tillers.

Namgay from Shaba shared similar issues adding that hiring from FMCL was convenient and famers do not have to waste time in maintenance and hiring operators. “Many residents have power tillers nowadays.”

Shaba Gup Chencho Gyeltshen said his gewog has five power tillers for each chiwog, and the gewog had a difficult time managing the machine. He said that the main concern was hiring an operator and taking care of the machine.

He said that locals used to hide their new power tillers, putting pressure on the state power tiller. “Maintenance was expensive and difficult. Most of the power tillers are driven off-road.”

Running out of options, he said the power tillers were handed over to FMCL as the ownership was already with them. “It is convenient to hire the machine from FMCL as they have professional operators, and they maintain them whenever required.”

The operators were paid Nu 9,000 for a month. Chencho Gyeltshen said that power tillers came to use only during the paddy season. “Power tillers are put to use roughly for five months, but we have to pay the operator during the rest of the year. It is not sustainable.”

Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer, Tandin said that there were no issues in handing over the power tiller to FMCL as the gewogs depend on it for maintenance and operators anyway. “It is convenient for the farmers as FMCL has hiring services.”

He said that the machine was handed over in consultation with gewog, adding that hiring from FMCL was an advantage as they didn’t have to hire an operator, pick and drop the machine and the rate was the same.

Besides monitoring issues, he said that the gewogs had to return because the ownership was with FMCL.

However, many chiwog tshogpas said that the farmers were unhappy with the decision, reasoning that the government snatched it away.

According to Bjikha-Phubana tshogpa Pemba Tshering, the farmers were shocked when they learnt that the gewog was handing over power tillers to FMCL as there was no issue in using it. “Everyone thought that it was for the farmers, but we had to hand it over.”

He said that it was difficult to understand the reasons behind pledges as one government distributes the machine while the other takes it over.

Chencho Zangmo said that farmers were disappointed as they can avail themselves of the service from the gewog rather than having to visit FMCL and hire the machine every time. “Farmers have to register and hire the machine, and it takes a lot of time.”

She said that private power tillers charge double the price, Nu 3,500 , adding that farmers still prefer to hire FMCL.

Lotey Gyeltshen, Nephung-Dochorten tshogpa, said that the gewog power tiller was useful, but it was taken away without notice. “It’ll be convenient if the machine is kept with the gewog.”

Edited by Tshering Palden