Govt. takes one step further towards fulfilling its campaign pledge

Agriculture: The 70 gewogs in the six eastern dzongkhags will get a power tiller each by the end of February, the agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said during the 14th meet the press session last week.

The government had pledged to provide one power tiller in each of the 1,040 chiwogs in the country.  The power tillers, however, would not be provided for free. “To use it, villagers will have to hire it,” lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.

Hiring charges range between Nu 1,200 and 1,500 an acre, depending on the terrain, which is half the existing commercial hiring rate in the villages.

Hiring power tillers to farmers started almost a year before the government pledged one for each chiwog during the 2013 election campaign.  Today almost 87 gewogs in 18 dzongkhags have the power tiller hiring facility.

The Agriculture Machinery Centre’s (AMC) program director, Karma Thinley, said AMC stopped selling power tillers to farmers since they started providing power tillers on hire.  Currently there are about 160 such machines provided on hire across the country.

“We’re setting up service centres in the gewogs. Eight service centres were set up last year,” he said, adding that currently centres are being established in Lhamoizingkha and Tsirang.

In fulfilling the pledge, eastern Bhutan would be given first preference, given the small number of power tillers in the east today.  Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said, while east has less than 300 such machines; western region has more than 1,000 power tillers.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said 84 percent of people in the east are engaged in agriculture farming, while the nationwide figure for people dependent on farming stood at 62 percent.

One of the main problems faced in the east, he said, was labour shortage in agriculture and power tillers would help ease the shortage.

“AMC officials are already working on the deployment strategy,” he said.  However, gewogs that do not have arable land would not get the power tillers.

Program director, Karma Thinley, said although requests for 1,450 power tillers have been made to Japanese government, it would be difficult to deliver all by next month.

AMC would receive 239-power tillers by the end of this month, which the Japanese government is providing under the KR II grant.  Of the 1,450-power tiller requested, discussion with Japan International Corporation Agency is underway for early delivery of 400.

“These 400 power tillers will be distributed to eastern districts on hiring basis,” he said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay had made the request for 1,450 power tillers during his official visit to Japan, in July.   He had then pointed out that the Japanese government had agreed “in principle” to this request.  The request for power tillers was made under the chiwog grant assistance for farm mechanisation and services.

The country has so far been receiving power tillers and other farm machinery from Japan through the KR-II grant assistance, made available to the country since 1984.   Under the KR-II grants, Japan has provided 2,795 power tillers so far.

Agriculture ministry early last year had estimated that 6,000 power tillers are required, if all available farmland in Bhutan is to be mechanised.  Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that a power tiller per gewog would be provided phase wise.

By Nirmala Pokhrel