First it was wild bores, then monkeys and now rats have started damaging crops in Gosarling’s Phuensumgang chiwog in Tsirang.

It has been more than a month since rats infested the fields eating the paddy plant from its stem.

One of the severely affected farmers is Tashi Tobgay, 43. He owns about three-acres of paddy field of which at least two acres has been damaged. Although the terraces do not look totally empty, a closer look shows that there are no grains growing.

“There is nothing I can collect to harvest from here,” he said. “Birds and moneys pick up what rats leave.”

Tashi Tobgay has started cutting the remaining paddy to feed the cattle before it turns yellow. Small portion of grain bearing plants in between the terraces are left to mature.

Last year, he lost his crops to heavy rainfall. Yet, he managed to harvest at least 600kgs (15 muri). He says it is a hassle complaining to the gewog administration.    

The highly priced choti rice popular for its taste is a source of cash income for many farmers in Tsirang. While few farmers sell it for cash income, others sell it to be able to buy larger quantity of cheaper imported rice. Choti rice is sold between Nu 70-80 a kilogram.

Another farmer who lost paddy to rats is a single mother Sonam, 50. Sonam owns at least two acres of wetland but owing to irrigation water shortage she was able to cultivate only 1.5 acre of land.

She said rats nibble in a way that it does not leave the hay unlike the damages done by wild bores and monkeys. “It eats at an early stage, which does not let the plant grow to bear grains. Rats infested the fields more after weeding,” she said.

To chase away the rats, Sonam filled her terraces with water and even sprinkled pumpkin pieces to divert the rats but to no avail. “While guarding the fields, I could hear them but never saw them,” she said.

Numerous huge rat holes are seen at the bottom of the paddy terraces.

Although the farmers are confident that they will harvest enough to feed their family, the infestation has badly affected their cash source of income. The concern is also on making enough fodder for their cattle. No paddy to harvest also means no fodder (hay) for cattle in winter.

Rat infestation has affected farmers in Pemathang chiwog. Farmers do not report it to the gewog administration or agricultural officials. “We just report and get nothing in compensation,” another farmer said.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang