For the last three years, Ugyen Wangdi a farmer from Bikhar-Domkhar chiwog in Trashigang has not refilled his liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder.

His firewood consumption of about three bolero pickup loads has also halved. This reduction in the consumption of LPG cylinders and firewood according to him is because of the construction of a biogas plant in 2015.

“By far, this was one of the best decisions I’ve made for me and my family. The biogas plant is a success story in my village,” said the 40-year-old farmer.

Under the Bhutan Biogas Project (BBP), Bikhar-Domkhar chiwog in Samkhar gewog was one of the first villages to receive the biogas plant in Trashigang.

The gewog has 246 biogas plants today of which Bikhar-Domkhar chiwog has 97 plants, the highest among the six chiwogs.

Gewog livestock extension officer, Pema Mashok, said the 11thPlan had targeted to construct 100 biogas plants in the gewog. The project received overwhelming support from the farmers given its benefits, he said.

Of the 15 gewogs in Trashigang, Samkhar has the maximum number of biogas plants today. Pema Mashok said people began to take interest in biogas plants after the gewog saw an increasing trend in the number of cattle.

He said the cattle population in Samkhar increased by 39 percent from 914 cattle in 2010 to 1,500 cattle in 2017. The milk production of the gewog also improved by 70 percent from 184,412 litres in 2010 to 618,259 litres last year.

“With the increasing cattle population, people’s interest in biogas also grew as the primary ingredient for biogas plants is cow dung,” he said.

Introduction of programmes like Market Access and Growth Intensification Project (MAGIP), Agriculture, Marketing and Enterprise Promotion Programme (AMEPP) and Comprehensive market focused Agriculture and Rural Livelihood Enhancement Project (CARLEP) contributed in the improvement of livestock development in the gewog.

Bikhar-Domkhar chiwog tshogpa, Sonam Dorji, said that most people in the villages are now shifting to biogas given its efficiency. “I stopped using LPG cylinder since 2015 and to this day, I’ve no complaints with my biogas plant,” he said.

Another farmer, Rinchen Wangpo, said that initially there were few challenges in operating the new technology. “The trainings on how to operate the tank helped. Today after three years, there has been no issue whatsoever from the plant.”

He said that besides the production of gas, they also get organic manure that helps in growing vegetables. “Unlike cow dung, the organic manure does not get infested with worms and has no smell,” he said. “Its impact on vegetables is better than those chemicals we previously used.”

Today, a majority of farmers in the chiwog have stopped using chemical fertilizers in their vegetable gardens. “The harvest is better and the soil also maintains its texture,” said Ugyen Wangdi.

Pema Mashok said the livestock division would soon construct a bio-slurry pit for 63 households in the gewog, which would help farmers capitalise from the semi-liquid discharge from the bio-digester.

The bio-slurry discharge is today drained into the fields directly.

“With the completion of the bio-slurry pit project, we intend to make Samkhar gewog an example for organic agriculture products in the country,” said Pema Mashok. “There will be no chemical fertilizers added to any of the agriculture products from Samkhar gewog.”

Younten Tshedup  | Bikhar