Chimi Dema | Sergithang

Small, but important steps are being made in growing rice in Sergithang gewog, Tsirang with the government focusing on import substituting of rice, the staple of many Bhutanese.

With the help of the agriculture land development project, more than 18 acres of wetland were developed in the Sergithang Toed chiwog belonging to about 18 households. The chiwog had only seven households cultivating paddy until this year.

Farmer Nado, used to consume about 300 kilograms (kgs) of rice. With 1.2 acres of his land converted into wetland, he is hopeful of reducing his dependence on imported rice. “If the crops don’t suffer damages, I am expecting a good yield,” said Nado who with support from the dzongkhag agriculture sector developed additional 14 paddy fields.

Another farmer, Tshering Pelden is experiencing her first year of cultivating paddy. Although agriculture officials advised farmers to grow crop on the new wetland only after three years, Tshering Pelden said that she had to cultivate paddy as she did not have paddy fields.

“I am skeptic about the yield, but I tried, ” she said.

The chiwog tshogpa Phurba said that with many venturing into paddy cultivation from this year, it is expected to cut down import of rice. “We also have reliable water for paddy cultivation.”

The gewog agriculture extension officer DB Ghalley said the chiwogs had sufficient water and agriculture land development was prioritised in the current Plan. Although the yield may be poor in the initial three years, he said that farmers were advised to manage their fields to ensure soil fertility.

DB Ghalley said that the consumption of imported rice in the chiwog would reduce by at least 20 percent this year.

Each household consumes between 250kgs and 500kgs of imported rice in a year currently.