Almost 30 years after the first machines entered Bhutanese fields, agriculture officials said much needed to be done.

The Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) officials said that a recent survey among farmers came out with a long list of technology needs.

AMC’s programme director, Kinga Norbu, said that farmers said they still have problems with weeding, ploughing due to steep terrain, and storage.

“We can say that the past technologies have not really worked for farmers,” he said.

Kinga Norbu said that until now the centre has been developing machines based on the officials’ assumption of the needs in the fields.

“We realized this is not working, and to make what they need, we conducted this national survey,” he said.

He said that this time the officials from the centre went around asking people from various farming types what sort of difficulties they faced in their daily work.

“This has helped us understand the need for our intervention and how the centre can innovate to solve these difficulties,” he said.

Agriculture is the prime industry of the country and agriculture production contributed to about 16.52 percent to the country’s gross domestic product in 2016. About 60 percent of the Bhutanese relies on agriculture for their livelihood.

Agriculture studies show that farm productivity is generally low, mainly due to steep geographic terrain and labour shortage has been becoming serious recently due to urban migration of young people.

The centre has numerous technologies ready to be released in the 12th Plan.

One of them is the direct paddy seeding technology by drum seeder. This paddy season, AMC regional office in Samtenling will distribute 20 of the new paddy-seeding machine in the southern dzongkhags.

This alternative technology saves farmers the drudgery of having to transplant paddy seedlings, nursery raising, and uprooting and transplanting. Paddy matures early by a week.

This is part of the process before releasing new farm technology, Kinga Norbu said.

“We develop prototypes and try them in the field with a small group of select farmers for a few years,” Kinga Norbu said.

Farmers can also use the AMC’s weeder to weed paddy planted using the direct seeding method.

Kinga Norbu said that AMC had reworked on the weeder more than six times.

AMC will also release for mass production corn sheller, pudding alternative machine, stone picker, power tiller ploughs, and fingers for the ploughs, among others.

Like the direct paddy seeder, the stone picker, which is in the final stages of development at the Samtenling regional office, is targeted at fields in southern parts of the country.

A mechanical engineer with AMC, Namgay, said that most of the technologies are adapted from those that are popular in other countries.

“There are certain modifications made to suit local needs and conditions,” he said.

The costs of the machines are reduced drastically.

For instance, the pudding machine imported from Japan costs between Nu 8,000 and Nu 9,000. “The ones we have developed and released will cost up to Nu 4,000,” he said. 

Tshering Palden | Paro