At this time of the year, people of Changrey in Trongsa will be busy transplanting chili sapling or harvesting barley.
Not this year.
A severe hailstorm on Tuesday, that lasted for about an hour, covered Changrey in Drakteng gewog in white, making it look like as if it snowed.
The storm destroyed all the chili saplings, buckwheat, cardamom, maize, potatoes and oranges in the area. The farm road in the area was also affected. Every household in Changrey cultivated acres of chili and buckwheat.
Tshogpa Loday said with chili, the main source of cash for the people, destroyed people are worried about the year ahead. The gewog administration and other relevant agencies were all informed about the disaster.
Tshering Lham,69, said her chili sapling, young and sturdy, were all ready to be transplanted or sold as seedlings, but the hailstones have destroyed it all. “I am worried that this year we have to buy chili from others.”
Farmers said they make around Nu 40,000 from selling chili seedlings only.
A farmer, Sonam Norbu said every year after the transplantation of the seedlings, the remaining is sold to Bumthang. “We will have to buy this year,” he said. The farmer also lost his buckwheat to the storm. “I will make the cows eat the remaining. It is too late to cultivate again.”
The area was once affected by hailstorm in 2016. People claim that after informing and investigating the affected area, no compensation was provided.
Potatoes damaged in Jamkhar
In Jamkhar Trashiyangtse, the hailstorm on April 2 afternoon severely damaged potato fields belonging to at least 48 households in two chiwogs.
This was the first time Tongla – Shingkhar chiwog and Chema -Takchema chiwogs were hit by heavy hailstones. Some villagers were weeding the potatoes when the storm occurred.
Tongzhang agriculture extension officer Karma Chezang said some parts of chiwogs wwereas hit so badly that most of the fields were damaged. “We cannot say if the potatoes will recover from the damage. Production will be affected.”
Chema -Takchema chiwog tshogpa, Cheki Wangchuk said one household had his acre of potato field damaged. The least affected household had only about 20 decimal.
He said that after heavy rains in the afternoon, hailstones hit the potato fields, which remained on the ground until evening. “A few other villages were also hit by the hailstone, but there were no major damages,” he said.
Tongla -Shingkhar chiwog tshogpa, Bopola said the hailstone that lasted more than two hours started around noon. The hailstones measured about two inches in diameter.
“There was a sudden shower of hailstones after a heavy downpour,” he said. Besides crops, farm road were also affected with drains being damaged and some portions of the road getting blocked.
Businessman, Sonam Tshering said hailstones rained three times that day. “The first was light but the second and third damaged the potatoes the most.” “I took a loan to grow potatoes. I am worried,” he said. Sonam Tshering claims he earned Nu 50,000 last year. “I was expecting a good harvest this year.”
Meanwhile, Kelzang, 82, said she had never seen a heavy hailstorm like the one she experienced in a day. “This is the first time in my 82 years. I was shocked to see the intensity of the damages on the potatoes,” she said.
The octogenarian was worried if the hailstone would damage her house too. “Everybody stayed in fearing the storm.”
A resident, Dorji Wangmo said potatoes are sensitive to hail. “Once they are damaged, there is no hope of regeneration,” she said. “It is not like maize.”
Potato is their main cash crop.
“All household expenses, including spending on school going children and annual puja are met through the sale of potato,” said Dorji Wangmo.
Villager said farmers wouldn’t be able to earn much from what is left. “I doubt if the harvest would even be enough for us,” he said.
Langa Tshering said farmers from the gewog usually sold more than 20 truckloads every year and each household would earn between Nu 40,000 to Nu 150,000.
The gewog administration and agriculture extension officers are assessing the damages. As of yesterday evening, they recorded damage to 23.7 acres of potatoes in Chema-Takchema chiwogs. Assessment is on going in other chiwogs.
Nim Dorji in Trongsa & Neten Dorji in T/yangtse