Neten Dorji | Khaling

Farmers in Bremang and Khordung in Khaling have resumed paddy cultivation this year after 30 years. Repeated floods and human-wildlife conflict had forced them to abandon paddy cultivation.

Khaling gewog administration helped farmers to develop and revive the fields to improve their livelihoods.

Ugyen, 50, said, “We’re happy to be able to grow paddy again.”

He is expecting a good yield this time since they could cultivate paddy on time.

His neighbour, Shacha Wangchuk said with the revival of paddy fields, the villagers hope to achieve self-sufficiency in rice. Farmers said most of them were buying imported rice from the market.

“We used to practise paddy cultivation in the past. But due to shortage of irrigation water, the terraces were left fallow for almost two decades,” said Shacha Wangchuk.

The government provided high-density polythene pipes to irrigate the fields. The farmers contributed free labour.

Another villager, Kelzang said that most of the farmers happily volunteered to grow paddy after the gewog administration fixed the irrigation canal last year.

“It’s more than 20 years or so since I last saw lush green paddy fields here. I have been growing maize and potatoes on my plot all these years,” said Kelzang.

A mother, Kinzang Choden said, “We’ve been working towards reviving paddy cultivation for the past few years. But not many were interested about it since they feared that wild animals would attack crops again.”

This year many agreed after the gewog installed electric fencing.

“Land is fertile to grow rice but we are discouraged from cultivating paddy due to frequent wild animal attacks,” said a villager. “I hope to continue if  there is a good yield.”

Villagers said that the whole area was covered in bushes and became pastureland for domestic animals.

“It was not possible for any of us to take up cultivation as we lacked labour and resources,” said a farmer, adding that this has led farmers to import rice.

Khaling Gup Sonam Dorji said more than 50 households benefited from the irrigation canal and electric fencing.

“We also made terraces fit for cultivation using excavators. It was hard to convince farmers since it was left fallow for three decades,” he said.

He said that the gewog has spent Nu 5.5 million to restore the irrigation canal. “To encourage farmers to resume paddy cultivation, the gewog is planning to revive fallow land, installing electric fences and restore the irrigation canal.”