Steering her way out of the narrow curves, 19-year-old Duptho Wangmo has a firm control over the power tiller she is driving.
Along with her are 11 other beginners learning to operate a power tiller at the regional Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) in Khangma, Kanglung.
“This is the second day but I’m already getting the hang of it,” said Duptho Wangmo who is one of the Land Use Certificate (LUC) members from Trashiyangtse.
After she could not qualify for class XI last year, Duptho Wangmo joined the LUC programme to pursue her interest in agriculture. “I’ve seen people driving the power tiller and it looked difficult which is why I didn’t take up learning the skill earlier.”
She said that knowing how to operate a power tiller was essential to practice agriculture. The LUC group in Trashiyangtse has only one person who knows how to operate the machine today.
“When that person is absent, the work gets piled up as no one else knows how to operate the power tiller,” she said. “Once the training is completed, this problem would be solved and we can work efficiently on our own.”
Duptho Wangmo is accompanied by seven members from various LUC groups in the eastern region in the second phase of the training that began from December 1.
The first phase of the training that ended last month saw 15 LUC members undergoing a similar exercise.
Along with the eight LUC members, the second phase has three chiwog power tiller operators and a businessman taking part in the month-long training.
Sonam Jamtsho who runs a restaurant in Kanglung has requested the AMC office to consider his involvement along with the rest of the participants.
“I’ve plans for mass cardamom cultivation back at home in Mongar and I’m here to get the skills on operating a power tiller,” he said. “This is the first time I’m handling a power tiller and so far it has been smooth learning.”
The 35-year-old businessman said that along with the operation of the machine, the training also involves theoretical lessons on repairing the parts if the machine breaks down.
Assistant engineer with AMC, Chhophel, said that besides the operation of the power tiller, the training includes lessons on minor maintenance (pre-checking) and a mechanic course that would equip the participants to repair engine and other parts of the machine.
“Once the training is completed, participants would be awarded a certificate that would help them avail license to operate the machine on their own,” said the engineer.
The training involves operating the machine on slopes and highway including ploughing and rotary skills in the fields.
Chhophel said the training this time is focused on LUC members in order to build their capacity in mechanised agricultural practices. “Besides the agricultural skills, these participants can also take up other entrepreneurial services where they can open workshops and facilities that can provide services to people.”
This is the 23rd batch of participants that regional AMC in Khangma has trained.
The engineer said that from the experiences shared by the earlier participants, the need to introduce these skills from schools was important.
It was learnt that the centre had provided similar training to students of three central schools in Trashigang during winter vacations from 2014 to 2016. However, the practice has stopped today.
“Those students who underwent the training are doing well today with some working with Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd and some opening their own agriculture business,” said the engineer. “If the education and agriculture ministries could explore this area, it would help address unemployment.”
Younten Tshedup | Kanglung