Tshering Zam, 25, a farmer of Balamna in Haa, was delighted when she saw her paddy harvest increase by six folds between two harvesting seasons in her 60-decimal field.

Paddy cultivation in Haa was first tried in 2016. However, the yield was low as it was  being piloted then.

Last year, Tshering Zam harvested about 1,400kg rice. In 2016, she could harvest only about 200kg rice.

Tshering Zam had little knowledge on how to cultivate paddy. “I didn’t even know how to maintain the level of the soil to retain water. Didn’t know how much water was enough and where to start directing water.”

She said that she bought rice with the money acquired from the sale of potatoes. Last year, during the celebration of National Day in Haa, about 1,200kg rice that was used for the Tokha was sold for about Nu 60 per kg. 

From the remaining, she consumed some and saved the rest as seed.

Until rice was introduced, farmers in Haa banked on potatoes.

“But earning from potatoes are erratic and unpredictable,” said Tshering Zam. ‘We had never tried paddy cultivation, so I was interested when agriculture officials told me that they would support paddy cultivation.”

Haa’s senior agriculture officer, Karchung, said there was no history of paddy cultivation in most parts of Haa. “Except for Gakiling and Sangbay gewogs, there was no cultivation in other gewogs.”

As new variety of rice that was suitable to grow in high altitude got introduced such as Jakar Rey Naab that is being grown in Bumthang today, he said that the seed was also cultivated in Haa.

Karchung said that when the agriculture minister visited Haa in 2016, he asked the dzongkhag and people to try paddy cultivation. “Since then, on a trial basis, paddy was cultivated. However, in 2016, there was not much yield and experts from Research and Development Centre, Yusipang advised the cultivation be carried out earlier.”

The initiative was to improve rice self-sufficiency and food security in the country, he said. “As the land had already been cultivated last year, the land would now be established. Other vegetables would also grow well.”

Labour shortage, the need to construct electric fence and back up intervention in the field were some of the challenges when cultivating paddy, according to agriculture officials.

Samar’s senior extension supervisor, Tandin Wangchuk, said that as the crop was new, people needed repeated intervention.

Dzongkhag developed lands for the cultivation of paddy.

For about four months in winter, there is no cultivation in Haa. The dzongkhag agriculture officer said there are plans of cultivating wheat in the winter.

A farmer received saplings from the dzongkhag.

“However, this year, I will have to do away with the cultivation due to water. Somehow, the water resource has dried up,” said Nathey.

Nobgang’s tshogpa said that a few farmers were interested to cultivate next year. 

The saplings will be provided to Tshering Zam’s farm.

The paddy would be transplanted in a little over an acre.

The transplantation is expected to complete by the end of this week.

Rinchen Zangmo  | Haa