The only one in the village who knows how to ride the machine is willing and able to help 

Agriculture: With the maize cultivation season on, villagers of Goenpang Shali in Shumar, Pemagatshel are not looking for workers this time.  They wait for their tshogpa Cheki Gyeltshen.

Cheki Gyeltshen is the only one in the village, who knows how to ride the power tiller they received from the government recently.  Since then, the tshogpa has been making rounds, using his skills to help farmers till their fields.  He has completed tilling for six households and has seven more to go.

Based on the cultivation season in various chiwogs, and following a discussion among five chiwogs, the tshogpas and gewog officials, along with the agriculture extension officer, prepared a work plan to hire out the power tiller.

Goenpang Shali chiwog, with 158 households was the first to use the power tiller. “We’ll use the power tiller only in farms where it can run,” the tshogpa said, adding that they have to complete the work soon, because sowing season has begun in other chiwogs.

As per the guidelines, each household can use the power tiller for eight hours a day, at a hiring charge of Nu 1,400.

“The power tiller has come as a great help, else we’d be looking for labourers to plough our fields,” he said. “But eight hours isn’t enough for some households that have more than an acre.”

The power tiller was handed over to the 11 gewogs in Pemagatshel to help optimise land utilisation.  With most of the young men working outside, villagers said it would help the old, who have been left behind to work on the farms

For 46-year old Sangay, this season was the first time he was able to plough his 62 decimals of land in a day.  It took him four days in the past.

“If we had to hire a private power tiller, we’d have to pay Nu 2,000 and there is no hour system too,” he said. “It would have been better if a permanent operator was hired, since many of us are inexperienced in using a power tiller.”

However, many said that, although the power tiller would help them cultivate, they continue to worry about losing half of their harvest to the wildlife.

Meanwhile, Shumar gup, Lepo, said they have requested Bhutan Oil distributor to supply diesel for the power tiller on credit since they have no separate budget.

“After collecting the fees, we’ll pay the credit,” he said. “The gewog agriculture extension office will maintain the details.”

Meanwhile, assistant dzongkhag agriculture officer, Tshering Dorji, said of the Nu 1,400, the operator would thatbe paid Nu 500, while Nu 900 would be used to fuel the tiller.  He said the power tiller uses about four litres in a day and  they charge Nu 200 for every extra hour.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Pemagatshel