Shin deep in mud, Kezang Dema slogs in scorching heat. Wearing a big smile on her face, she is transplanting paddy in Radhi, Trashigang.
The mid day scorching heat is unforgiving but it does not deter Kezang and her friends.
With timely monsoon this year, farmers of Radhi, known for their rice, hope that they would have a bountiful produce.
The transplantation season is almost over. Kezang Dema’s family is one of the last in the village to do the transplantation.
As she enjoys the cool touch of the muddy water underneath her knees, she said, she expects to harvest a good yield by September.
Radhi is covered with thick blankets of green paddy and maize fields. With the completion of the transplantation works, almost all the farmers are inside their home.
A farmer Dorji Tashi said it’s been a hard-earned break for him and his family. “We should have a good yield this year, as we had timely rainfall and all works completed on time.”
Of the total 1,258.91 acres of wetland in the gewog, 1,238.16 acres are under paddy cultivation. Because of this, Radhi gewog is also known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’.
In 2014, the gewog produced a total of 2,143.87 metric tonnes (MT) of rice. The production increased by 218.33MT in 2015. Last year the gewog produced 2,909.68MT of rice despite the challenges from human-wildlife conflict, lack of proper irrigation canal and lack of labourers.
The gewog agriculture extension supervisor, Pema Wangchen, said that timely monsoon is the main factor contributing to a good harvest in the gewog. “Without a proper irrigation canal, farmers have to depend on the monsoon. This year we’re expecting a good harvest since we received timely rainfall.”
He said that the production has also increased comparatively because of the use of power-tillers and natural manure (cow dung). “The quality of soil during transplantation is crucial. With the help of power-tillers, the quality of soil has also improved, resulting in better harvests.”
There is a total of 78 power-tillers in the gewog today of which 73 are privately owned.
Apart from producing one of the largest quantities of rice in the east, Radhi is also known for its different varieties of rice. The gewog produces some nine varieties of rich of which Sorbang and Sung-sung rice are highly regarded in the country today.
The Sorbang, meaning lemongrass lookalike rice, also known as Radhi rice, fetches about Nu 65 a kg while the sung-sung rice which is red in colour fetches Nu 70 to 75 a kg.
Dekidling-Tshangkhar tshogpa, Phurba Dorji, said the demand for Sorbang rice is high since it is not grown elsewhere. “The rice is popular for its soft texture and also a faint sweetness unique to this variety.”
Villagers receive orders from Thimphu and Phuntsholing for the rice. A farmer said that he has received orders for about 100kg of the Sorbang rice from Gelephu.
Meanwhile, except for ploughing the fields, rest of the rice cultivation works today are done manually in Radhi.
Pema Wangchen said that if farming is mechanised using technologies like transplanters and harvesters, the production could be further increased.
Younten Tshedup | Radhi