Three years after the government provided a power tiller to Tseza gewog in Dagana, it is not utilised as it should be. It lies idle at the gewog centre today.

The reason is because most people in the locality own private mini power tillers.

Sources say more than 100 households in the gewog own mini power tillers, as people prefer taking loans and buying one for themselves rather than hiring the government power tillers. Records maintained with the gewog office states that there are up to 50 private power tillers.

People say the government provided power tillers are large, making it difficult to transport, as the terrain is not flat. “People have to carry it,” a source said.

Locals say it is difficult to operate because of the size. “A single person cannot operate the machine and only a trained operator can handle it,” a resident said.

Tobgay, 26, owns a mini power tiller. He bought his power tiller last year at a cost of Nu 131,000 from the Karma one-stop shop in Wangduephodrang. “It is solely for personal use,” he said. “It is expensive to buy one privately but it is convenient in many ways.”

He said that while it is readily available anytime they need, it is also easy to operate. “The mini power tiller is easily portable and can be carried by a single person as well,” Tobgay said. “Moreover it can be operated on slopes and narrow field.”

Tobgay also does business by supplying power tillers to other fellow farmers. Although he is yet to set up an outlet to sell power tillers, he plans to hire a technician from the Technical Training Institute and employees to maintain power tillers.

He said many villagers are keen on buying individual power tillers and he sees a good business opportunity in opening a sale outlet and maintenance house.

Farmers said that it is the easy availability of Rural Enterprise Development  Corporation Ltd (REDCL) loans that has encouraged farmers to buy their own power tillers.

Another farmer who bought a mini power tiller recently is Rinzin. The 63-year-old man said he bought it for Nu 96,000 from Phuentsholing.

He did so because he was tired of trying to transport the government power tiller to his field. Sometimes he was told the operator was busy or sometimes the power tiller was damaged.  “It is good to own one instead,” he said.

Rinzin also said it was expensive to hire the government provided power tiller as the charges are levied from the gewog centre even before the work starts. “That way transporting it to furthest field from the gewog centre incurred unnecessary expenditure for farmers.”

It costs Nu 1,400 per day to hire the government provided power tiller, which amounts to less than Nu 200 an hour. “I tried several times to make use of the government power tiller,” he said.

The mini power tiller owners say they learn from each other on how to operate the machine and also help each other whenever maintenance is required.

Meanwhile, the gewog agriculture extension officer, Tika Ram Thapa said that since the government provided power tiller was received in June 2014, it has been rarely used. The longest duration  of its usage was last summer when it was hired for two weeks.

He said large power tillers are the main problem as it is inconvenient to operate in narrow terraces, which requires people to manually lift it onto the next terrace. “Incompetent operators are another issue. We need well trained operators for optimum utilisation of the power tiller,” he said.

Tika Ram Thapa said the mini power tillers are so convenient that people even use it to till the insides of green houses as well.

Tseza gewog’s major farming activity is cultivation of paddy and maize.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang