After leaving her land fallow due to shortage of irrigation water and wildlife damaging her fields, Damayanti Dhimal in Pelrithang, Gelephu chose to cultivate her wetland this year.

She transplanted paddy on 10 terraces depending solely on rainwater. Her field has irrigation and the private irrigation canal ends in her neighbour’s field.

If there is continues rain, she said the paddy would grow well but on a dry terrace the produce is less and quality, poor. “I have enough field to grow rice for my four member family but water shortage doesn’t make it possible. I buy rice from market,’’ she said.

Krishan Dungana, who lives nearby the gewog center, also faces a similar problem. With no irrigation facility, Krishna and his neighbors depend on rainwater. This year he is preparing about four-acre land for paddy cultivation. He transplants paddy in two or more terraces after a night of rainfall.

He said that had there been a proper irrigation channel, he would be able to reap a bountiful harvest. “For those like us, no rainfall is a disaster,” he said.

Gelephu gewog has 454.6-acre of wetland and four irrigation canals. Of the four canals, two canals of 1kms and 1.5kms are rain fed. The third 2kms long canal draws water from Passang Chu. The fourth canal at Tarulene is nonfunctional.

Rain fed paddy transplantation is not the only issue farmers in Gelephu gewog face. Their corps need protection from wild animals. At this time of the year, farmers here spend sleepless nights guarding their crops from elephants. About two weeks ago, a herd of elephants damaged crops and makeshift houses in Pelrithang khatoed.

“After struggling with water, wild animals is our big concern,” Krishna said. “Elephants don’t just threaten our crops but property and life as well.”

Farmer Damayanti used to transplant paddy before she decided to leave her fields fallow. After wild animals destroyed her rain fed plantation, she stopped growing paddy completely.

Meanwhile other farmers who depend on proper irrigation water in Gelephu are expecting to harvest more rice this season. Their hopes are high due to the recently installed electric fencing. The gewog administration installed a total of 8.3kms long electric fencing.

Gewog agriculture extension officer, Gyeltshen said that the electric fencing has benefitted 688 households and protects 655 acres field. He said there are about seven households that depend solely on rainwater for paddy cultivation.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu