The government had requested the Japanese government for 1,450 power tillers in 2014

Mechanization: The total number of power tillers that Bhutan will receive from Japan, following the cessation of the KR-II grant programme, is yet to be determined.

While the Japanese government had in principle agreed to the Prime Minister’s request for 1,450 power tillers during his visit to the island state in 2014, the final number provided could vary.

A team from Japan is currently in the country to determine how many power tillers Bhutan requires and how Japan can meet the requirements.

The Japanese team is working alongside the Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC).

AMC Programme Director, Karma Thinlay, said that the total number would be dependent on the donor country’s available budget and capacity in Bhutan. He said the Japanese team is determining how many power tillers are required by Bhutan in one year, which means that the machines could be provided in phases.

“Of course, at the capacity level if the donors are willing to give us 1,450 at one shot, government might fill in additional resources to cater services to this,” Karma Thinlay said.

The AMC programme director acknowledged that the final number of power tillers provided could be lower than 1,450 but he pointed out that it also go the other way and be higher.

He said the calculation of 1,450 power tillers was made based on a modest estimation of how many of the machines would be required to cover 205 gewogs. “I just wish it should not be lower,” he said.

However, he pointed out that there are indications that it may not be lower. The new Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) president who recently visited Bhutan said that the country would remain a top priority for Japan. Karma Thinlay said that he is confident that the JICA president is aware of the country’s needs and history of successful utilization of Japanese aid.

AMC still expects a first batch of around 400 power tillers by next year.

If Bhutan were to pursue mass mechanization and mechanize all of its arable land, when mechanize means the provision of a power tiller, then between 16,000 to 17,000 power tillers would be needed. Karma Thinlay said this takes into account 50 percent of power tillers provided under Japanese support since the early 80s.

Bhutan received 3,186 power tillers worth Nu 1.8 billion and various other farm equipment, under the KR-II grant programme initiated in 1984. Around 50 percent of these power tillers are assumed to be off-road by now.

Up to 52 percent of wet land and 35 percent of dry land in Bhutan can be mechanized, according to the AMC.

Until now, only around two percent of arable land would be considered mechanized by a power tiller. The number is higher than 90 percent if other machinery are taken into account.

Data is still being compiled following the introduction of power tiller hiring services in some gewogs, which will increase the percentage of land mechanized by power tillers.

Karma Thinlay said it would not only be the government’s responsibility to determine if all arable land should be mechanized. He said that while the government would have to follow policies to protect wetland and support mechanization, the private sector would also need to be involved as the government alone cannot continue to conduct the business of purchasing and selling power tillers. He also pointed out that farmers would have to be willing to adopt new technologies.

Karma Thinlay explained that the power tiller had eased agricultural work for farmers and increased local production so that imports had reduced and Bhutanese could eat more vegetables that are not tainted by chemicals.

Gyalsten K Dorji, Paro