Phongmey farmers demand separate RNR centre

The one in the gewog, they say cannot cater to all

Agriculture: Given the distance from the gewog center, villagers of three chiwogs of Yabrang, Phimsong and Thongrong under Phongmey gewog want a separate Renewal Natural Resource (RNR) extension center at Yabrang.

The Gamrichu separates the three chiwogs from the gewog center and vehicles cannot ply on the existing bridge over the river. Villagers either walk for several hours or drive down to Rangjung and tread up across Shongphu and Radhi gewogs before they reach Phongmey.

Yabrang tshogpa, Samten said it takes villagers almost four hours to get to the gewog center on foot. Because of the distance, timely support and interventions for agriculture and livestock activities are delayed, said Samten.

“When our crops are affected by insects and pests, it takes time for the extension agents to get here, By the time, a lot of damage is done,” he said. “In terms of livestock, the routine check up of our cows is affected the most.”

Although the issue was discussed during Gewog Tshogde sessions and appraised at the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT), Samten said, it is far from getting addressed.

“A RNR center at Yabrang would help approximately 300 households of the three chiwogs where every household is involved extensively in agriculture and livestock farming,” he said.

Samten added they have seen the consequences of not getting timely interventions from the agriculture extension agent in 2013 when villagers lost most of the cereals to pests.

“Because the extension agent could not reach on time, the pests destroyed most of our paddy and maize fields. We don’t want the incident to repeat,” he said.

Phimsong tshogpa Nima Choejey said that the chiwog sold over 17 tonnes of maize last year while dairy farming and piggery are picking up fast.

“For a chiwog of 90 households, we can do better. But, it becomes difficult when our animals fall sick and timely treatment is not possible.”

Thongrong tshogpa Pema Dorji said the RNR center should ideally be located at Yabrang given the chiwog falls in between Phimsong and Thongrong.

“It would save our time and ultimately improve the livestock and agricultural productions in the three chiwogs,” he said.

Phongmey gup, Palden Dorji said the matter remained unresolved even after putting it up during a DT because of shortage of extension agents across the country.

“With more than 700 households, Phongmey is a large gewog and the there is a need for another RNR center for the three chiwogs,” he said. “Should it be approved, we have identified existing infrastructures at Yabrang from where the center can operate.”

Dzongkhag agriculture officer (DAO), DC Bhandari said that although government follows the policy of “one gewog one center”, chiwogs can propose for another center if the need is genuine.

“They must route it through the DT. However, we need to assess if the area of cultivation is large enough and if villages are very active in agricultural activities,” he said. “We have a couple of centers where extension agents are yet to be deputed.”

Dzongkhag livestock officer, NS Tamang said villagers can still make use of a nearby center at Chaling chiwog under Shongphu gewog.

“We have a livestock extension agent at Chaling from where Phongmey villagers can avail our services until we have a permanent solution,” he said.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang

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