About 50 percent of the farmers of Bartsham gewog, in Trashigang said that shortage of labour due to rural-urban migration was one of the major challenges in agriculture.

This was according to a study by Tashi Dorji, a lecturer at Sherubtse College, Trashigang. Bartsham has a population of 1,788 and over 440 households. 

Tashi Dorji said that the gewog was today hit by rural-urban migration.

“Gewog statistics indicate the presence of comparatively more number of empty households (gungtong). In some chiwogs like Moogtangkhar and Trashyang, there are only few households left with a majority of the structure damaged and land remaining fallow.”

Rice and maize are the main crops. Other major crops such as potato and chili are also dominant sources of income.

Data maintained by the gewog centre shows an increase in crop production over the years (2015-2017).

Tashi Dorji said that Bartsham gewog harvested 841.5 tons of maize in 2016, which increased to 1257.9 tons in 2017. Rice production increased to 376.2 tons from 315 tons in 2017.

Bartsham has 7.45 percent of their total land holding as fallow.

Tashi Dorji said that today the gewog holds an excess production capacity of Nu 4.6 million (M) due to shortage of farm labour and other factors.

The production loss as a result of migration accounts for 104.9MT of maize and 32.3MT of rice equivalent to Nu 2.1 M and Nu 2.5 M respectively.

The study found that the out-migrants help the community through remittances in the form of cash and goods and in the past 12 months, the community has received about Nu 1.4M as remittances.

The highest proportion of remittances is in form of goods such as cloths and edible items and Nu 0.49M in the form of cash.

“These remittances are invested in various forms such as loan repayment, setting up a new business, agriculture, construction of new houses and children’s education,” Tashi Dorji said.

The study found that the excess production capacity of Nu 4.6M outweighs the benefit of migration. Tashi Dorji said that the net loss was estimated to be Nu 3.2M.

“If the current trend of migration continues, it will be a larger threat and loss to the community in terms of revenue generation through the production of farm produce.”

Phurpa Lhamo