Disaster: Following hail and a windstorm destroying their crops on September 27, the farmers of Dhukti village under Yalang gewog in Trashiyangtse are worried about their livelihood this year.

Hail destroyed the staple food of the people of Dhukti like sweet buckwheat, buckwheat and upland paddy. It also destroyed vegetables and other fruits.

Paddy plants remain in their fields but stripped off their grains.  The tender sweet buckwheat and buckwheat plants look like a herd of cattle have trampled on them. And the millet plants are all crushed but their grains have survived.

Nima, 79, from Phashna village in Dhukti said his paddy cultivated on less than an acre was completely destroyed. “The windstorm broke even banana trees,” he said.

Tashi Yangzom, 40, from Dhukti village said she cultivates upland paddy on around 60 decimals of land. The crop provides enough to provide rations for her family for one year. She usually does not have to buy any rice.

But this year she will have to as the hail destroyed most of her paddy crop.

Tashi Yangzom said she was supposed to harvest her paddy on September 28. “I worked so hard and everything was destroyed when it was ready for harvest,” she said, tears streaming down her face.

Tashi Yangzom usually harvested some 300 dreys of rice a year. A drey is a traditional grain measuring instrument and one drey equals to a little more than a kilogramme.

Farmers here started cultivating upland paddy as they do not have any paddy fields given lack of an irrigation facility.

People here said they will have to buy rations, especially rice, this year. The nearest road to the village is at the Yalang gewog centre at Thragom. It takes five hours for men to reach the village with a load. For women it take seven hours.

“We might have to buy rice from the Indian border town which is closer than Thragom,” said a farmer, adding that rice is not easily available there like in Thragom.

Sherub Dema, 46, planted paddy on land measuring about a langdo. A langdo is an area of land that a pair of oxen can plough in a day.

Sherub Dema was fortunate. She harvested some 300 dreys of paddy just before the disaster. She usually harvests some 700 dreys annually. “I could harvest only 100 dreys from the field from where it used to yield 200 dreys,” she said.

Pema Wangchuk, 43, cultivated paddy on around one and a half langdo of land. His paddy is almost completely destroyed. He said the windstorm destroyed all the maize in the previous month and now the paddy is gone. “It’s been very bad for us,” he said.

Dhuktipas attribute the disaster to poachers and other illegal collectors of forest products from the Indian border town visiting Tshongtshongphu mountain which is believed to be very sacred.

Sonam, 40, said the villagers close entry to the mountain premises on the 3rd day of the 20th month of the Bhutanese calendar every year. The closure is locally called Ladham. The Ladham is lifted after the crops are harvested.

“Poachers and illegal forest product collectors from the border town frequently broke into the mountain this time,” a villager said.

Villagers said they used to experience strong winds and rain every year but this year’s was devastating as it also brought with it hailstone.

Yalang’s agriculture extension agent, Ugyen Gayleg, who was at the site assessing the damage said that approximately four acres of upland paddy have been destroyed. Four households which grow buckwheat and millet have also been affected.

“There are 23 households affected of which only two households have suffered major destruction,” he said. The report will soon be submitted to the dzongkhag.

There are 25 households in Dhukti. It is one of the remotest villages in Tashiyangtse.

Nima Wangdi | Dhukti