Neten Dorji

Trashigang—Growing Napier hedges has helped in reversing the top soil erosion, and improved crop production, and livestock productivity, according to farmers of Thongrong, Trashigang.

The dzongkhag agriculture sector, with support from UNDP’s small grant program and the Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative(COMDEKS), implemented the initiative among the 47 households in Thongrong under Phongmey gewog who had been cultivating a steep slope where even light rain, and or wind washed away or blew away the top soil severely impacting the productivity.

Sixty-two-year-old, Tshering Wangchuk like other farmers of his village in Thongrong, Trashigang, had started growing rows of Napier hedges in his field as a barrier to slow and trap topsoil and water from moving down the slopes.

“Even slight rainfall caused loss of topsoil. Crop productivity decreased and cultivation became difficult in a stony field,” Tshering Wangchuk said.

Another villager, Tshering Yangchen said that the farmlands in the past were difficult to work and the yield was poor. “During monsoon, runoff rainwater would wash away the topsoil and in the winter, strong winds would blow the topsoil away,” she said. “The land management made it much better and now most people use power tillers in the fields.”

For 38-year-old Lobzang Jamba, the lines of hedges grown in the fields had helped increase the crop yield and provided fodder for the cattle.

“After the land management work, it has become convenient for ploughing and retaining topsoil. Now we cultivate chilli, potato and cabbage and we can sell it in schools.”

He said that they have very limited arable land. Without the land management program, they would have faced serious consequences.

In fact, due to the low productivity in the past, Dorji Dema had left her land fallow. “ Now it has become fertile, and we work with power tillers without having to hire labourers.”

Despite a decrease in cultivated land, crop production has shown improvement compared to previous generations. Nevertheless, due to certain sections of hedges beginning to dry up, some farmers have stopped the practice of cutting them for fodder.

As part of planting Napier hedgerow (grass) in farmlands, 13 bamboo check dams and drains were constructed to reduce gully formations in 2014.

“When the project was initially initiated in the chiwog, we had doubts about its success. It has immensely benefited us, but the problem is further exacerbated by the impact of climate change today,” said Tshogpa Sonam Norbu.

Meanwhile, approximately 1,100 acres of land have been brought under agricultural land development through bench terracing, terrace consolidation, and surface stone removal in the country in 2022, as stated in the National Soil Service Centre’s annual report.

“Given the limited arable land that is located on steep slopes, land degradation, mainly water-induced soil erosion, is a serious threat to food security and people’s livelihoods,” the report stated.