The white elephant of Panbang

A tall figure perched above the Nganglam-Panbang highway is the white elephant of Panbang.

The 8,500 kilogramme silo was built to store maize at Sonamthang village, about three kilometres from Panbang towards Nganglam. Today it is abandoned and unused.

The agriculture machinery unit built the silo between 2006 and 2007 for the villagers of Sonamthang to help them store their maize grains.

Farmers didn’t want to use the silo after their maize they saved was found spoilt. Farmers don’t know why the silo failed and the produce of their hard work let to decay.

A farmer from Sonamthang, Pema Gyeltshen, 32, said the farmers saved some 20 dreys each in the silo for the first time when it was installed.

“The maize was all rotten and infested with insects when they took out after some three months,” he said. He added he didn’t want to keep his maize in the silo thereafter.

Drey is a traditional grain measuring equipment, which equals to little more than a kilogramme.

He said farmers suspected rainwater seepage from the top to have led to rotting of their maize. Farmers did not cooperate in saving their maize in the silo after that.

“Farmers store their maize in sacks at home today,” he said.

Choki, 45, said farmers have to dry their maize in the sun frequently to protect it from getting spoilt at home. “Otherwise maize grains get spoilt due to the heat and humidity. The silo would be useful if it worked properly,” he said.

Ngangla gup, Rinchen Wangdi, said their maize could have also been spoilt because the people didn’t know how to use it.  Agriculture officials did not teach people properly on how to use it then.

“Actually people dried their maize in the drying machine that is also installed near the silo before putting in to the silo,” he said. However, it didn’t work.

Gup Rinchen Wangdi said farmers of Sonamthang grow maize twice a year, once each in summer and in winter. There was no problem with the winter harvest but the one harvested in summer got spoilt because of heat. “We are planning to reuse it soon,” he said.

Zhemgang dzongkhag agriculture officer, Phuntsho, said soon they will see what actually needs to be done to make it work.

“I suspect it was not working due to management problems,” he said.

The silo has a conveyor like structure that carries the maize to the opening on the top. It also has a small opening at the bottom to take the maize out.

Nima Wangdi | Panbang

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