WDCDLD: Over 70 acres of farmland belonging to 47 households of Thongrong in Phongmey, Trashigang were brought under the sustainable land management practices (SLMP) yesterday to observe the World Day to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation.

Besides establishing napier hedgerows, land management activities like construction of check dams, plantation of bamboo rhizomes, fruits and stabilisation of gullies were carried out.

Led by Thongrong Sazhing Tshogpa, the programme is supported by the National Soil Service Centre (NSSC) and the dzongkhag administration.

It is being financially supported by Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) small grants programme (SGP), Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative (COMDEK) and the UNDP.

A team from NSSC was at Thongrong for the past 20 days to the control lines and to provide training and to advise famers.

Programme director with NSSC, Karma Dema Dorji, said that NSSC opted for establishment of hedgerows because of higher gradient in Thongrong.

“Terracing is not possible here because the land is very steep. However, with the hedgerows, terraces will gradually come up after three to four years,” she said.

Land management officer, Haka Duba, said that the celebration is an annual event and is taken to needy places. “The quality of soil here is good and deep. This is the right time to prevent further erosion of the topsoil.”

National coordinator with the GEF-SGP, Singay Dorji, said that places like Radhi and Phongmey have fragile land areas. “It could be attributed to over grazing in the upstream areas, over harvesting of resources towards the mid-stream areas, steep landscape, growing population and change in climatic conditions.”

He said that through the SLMP, the soil fertility will improve by 15 percent, yield by about 20 percent, and villagers will have abundant fodder for cattle.

Villagers will start growing mustard to improve the ground cover. An oil expeller unit will also set up to generate income from the sale of mustard oil. Further, a 4.5 km electric fence will be constructed to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

The idea to start SLMP started in 2009 when the research and development centre (RDC) in Wengkhar came up with the Gamri Watershed Management Plan. 

However, the plan was shelved for about four years due to lack of budget until funds came from Satoyama Initiative of Japan for land management activities.

GEF-SDP then started looking for a suitable region across the country. Trashigang was selected as the right region.

“There are flash floods coming right into villages, a decline in grazing area, and steep agriculture fields in Trashigang,” Singay Dorji said. “People in the dzongkhag are mostly dependent on maize. If they don’t take care of the land, the impact will be huge in terms of their livelihood and food security.”

Hence, intervention measures were taken up, whereby 12 projects were planned within the Gamri watershed that spans across eight gewogs.

SLMP in Thongrong is one of the many projects.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang