Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Lok Maya Tamang had a sleepless night on December 16. Earlier that evening, she received a phone call informing her to be in Damphu Town the next day.

Worried, the 59-year-old reached Damphu by eight in the morning on December 17. She was invited to the national day celebrations at the Damphu football ground. She was one of the five progressive farmers selected to receive the maize sheller.

“We had to wait a few hours. I was curious. I saw the machine but didn’t know what it was,” the mother of two from Tsholingkhar Toed said.

Designed by the assistant dzongkhag agriculture officer Kinzang Chophel, the maize sheller can be operated manually and is portable and cheap. It weighs four kilograms.

Lok Maya said: “I don’t have to spend long hours shelling the maize now. I can shell 70kgs of maize in 30 minutes.” Earlier, it took days for her to complete shelling the maize. “It was a tiring process; we got backaches and blisters on our hands.”

Mon Maya Tamang from Dhajay in Rangthangling said that the sheller has helped her save time and spend on other income-generating activities. “The workload had reduced by three-fold. If we can finish shelling one sack in a day, we can now shell three sacks with the help of the sheller.”

Her neighbours borrowed the sheller from her during the maize harvest season.

Women and the elderly did the shelling most of the time. With the labour shortage, farm work had only increased for ageing Lok Maya and her husband. According to the UN, around the world, women do the vast majority of unpaid work, including childcare, cooking, cleaning, and farming.

Lok Maya grows maize on two acres of land and vegetables on an acre. She sells her produce in Damphu.

However, she said that the sheller could be modified in the future — power operated, adjustable, larger base for stability, and taller in height. Currently, she said that the small corn cannot be shelled in the machine.

Kinzang Chophel said that the sheller would help people living without a constant power supply and those who cannot handle power-operated maize-shelling machines. He researched and explored the design thrice before deciding on the current one. “I thought it would benefit the farmers. Shelling is a tedious process.”

He designed 30 such devices and contributed five to farmers across the dzongkhag during the national day celebrations last year. Each sheller costs Nu 1,500.