Hailstorm damages crops in Samtse and Wangdue

Around 400 households have been affected 

Farm: A hailstorm damaged at least 300 cardamom farms in Norgaygang gewog, Samtse and more than 87 acres of fields in Kashi gewog, Wangdue on April 6.

The hailstorm in Samtse lasted for two hours and affected at least two chiwogs: Choogoophendegang and Assamsa.

In Wangdue the hailstorm went on for 30 minutes and affected the chiwogs of Bayul and Membi.

Samtse

Cardamom and maize plantations have been severely damaged, according to the Choogoophendegang tshogpa, Golay. “The hailstorm lasted at least two hours,” he said.

The tshogpa added that cardamom farms of at least 120 households in his chiwog have been damaged by the hailstorm. The tshogpa said he is expecting relevant government agencies to provide help.

Assamsa tshogpa Karma Wangchuk said that cardamom farms were hit the worst in his chiwog. He said there are at least 200 households that cultivate cardamom in Assamsa. But vegetables were also damaged by the hailstorm.

Villagers said that a few houses sustained minor damage to their roofs.

The two tshogpas said that they have submitted reports to the gewog and dungkhag administration, including agriculture officials.

Norgaygang mangmi Karma Lhendup said that the gewog administration has received verbal information from two tshogpas. “As of now we don’t know how many have been affected,” the mangmi said. “We will go to these two chiwogs today to verify the damages,” he said yesterday.

Choogoophendegang and Assamsa do not have motor road access. The nearest motor road point is located at Khababgang which is located a few hours away by foot.

Norgaygang is one of the 15 gewogs in Samtse. It has a population of about 3,381. The gewog has 653 households.

Cardamom is the main cash crop in this gewog. In the last two and half years, Norgaygang villagers harvested about 311 metric tonnes of cardamom, which is the highest of all the 15 gewogs in Samtse.

Wangdue

Within 30 minutes, a hailstorm wiped out all of Cha Lham’s potato and wheat crops.

“I was busy feeding the cows, when the devastating hailstorm hit the village and destroyed my two acres of potato and less than one acre of wheat crop,” said Cha Lham, 22, of Gaytsakha village in Kashi gewog. “I rushed to my field but only to find that it had already turned into something like a garbage field smeared with ragged clothes,” said Cha Lham.

Cha Lham’s household is one of 77 households in the chiwogs of Bayul and Membi of Kashi gewog.

Wangdue’s agriculture officer, Sonam Zangpo said as per their preliminary assessment the hailstorm has damaged around 87.55 acres of fields that includes 75 acres of potato and 12.5 acres of wheat.

The severity of the damage to potato crops is between 65-90 percent while around 12 percent of the wheat crops were damaged, he said.

The damage assessment will be submitted to the departments of disaster management and agriculture, he added.

The dzongkhag agriculture officer, gewog extension agent and local leaders conducted the assessment. The figure might change on completion of the detailed assessment, it was pointed out.

Kashi Gup Sigay Dorji said the hailstorm has also affected some fruit and vegetable plants that were grown for seedling purposes. The gewog was hit by a heavy hailstorm in 2014.

The two chiwogs of Bayul and Membi are located at a higher altitude and so paddy is not grown, making potato the primary cash crop there, said Sigay Dorji.

Gup Sigay added that although people are aware that there is no compensation for damage to crops, they have requested for seedling support.

Chuko, 43, a resident of of Balangdra, said: “Had it not been the hailstorm, within two months, we would be harvesting wheat, and after that digging for potatoes.”

Chuko lost around 33 decimals of wheat crop and two acres of potato plants. “We survive on the income from potatoes, as we don’t grow paddy,” Chuko said. “All our household expenses including expenditure for four school going children were met from selling potatoes from the two acres.”

Last year, his potato harvest fetched around Nu 140,000. “I am sad now because forget about selling, I doubt if there is anything left for ourselves,” said the father of four.

Chuko’s family was also one of the victims of the 2014 hailstorm. “Our months of hard work has been smashed into the ground within a few minutes,” he said.

Meanwhile, the hailstorm hit villagers said their only hope is to request the government to at least help them with seedlings for next year, as it could cost Nu 2,000 per 100kg of potato seeds when bought from Phobjikha.

Dawa Gyelmo and Rajesh Rai

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