Fallowing of land has become a major concern in Trashigang.
According to recent records from the dzongkhag agriculture office, of the total 21,529.6 acres of dry land in the dzongkhag, about 7,015.78 acres have been left fallow. About 483.34 acres of 4,104 acres wetland remain uncultivated.
The difficult terrain, shortage of farmhands due to emptying of households and human-wildlife conflicts, among others, are some the commonly cited reasons for the increasing fallowing of land.
Between 2015 and 2016, a total of 983 goongtong cases were recorded in the dzongkhag; Bartsham had the highest (150), followed by Phongmey (126).
The problem of fallowing of land has become so common that even in Radhi, the rice bowl of the east, fields are left uncultivated. Some 1,964.9 acres of land (wet and dry lands) remains fallow in the gewog today.
Radhi gup Kulung, however, said that the figures of acreage left fallow in the gewog could not be true. “We need to conduct a survey to find the actual figure.”
Dzongkhag agriculture officer, D C Bhandari, said that lack of adequate irrigation channels in Radhi is one of the major factors leading to the fallowing of land. Irrigation water, he said, is usually tapped from small streams that are mostly not perennial.
“Irrigation is dependent mostly on monsoon. If there is timely rainfall, there is scope to cultivate,” said D C Bhandari. “Moreover, irrigation channels are damaged by slides during monsoon.”
But there is good news. The agriculture ministry and JICA are planning to construct a new irrigation channel in Radhi to address the issues. Feasibility studies have been completed and the dzongkhag administration is awaiting the approval from the ministry.
Water will be drawn from Yudiri, a river between Radhi and Phongmey.
“Once the irrigation channel is in place, water shortage in Radhi will be solved,” said D C Bhandari.
Fallowing of land is a concern for the dzongkhag administration, said D C Bhandari. “But we think the number is decreasing, not drastically but we are observing a gradual drop.”
As a measure to reduce fallowing of land due to human-wildlife conflict, farmers are provided with electric fencing. Officials, however, say that most of the farmers are not wiling to take the ownership of the fencing.
The dzongkhag’s agriculture office is also encouraging dropout and unemployed youth to take up farming and make use of the fallow lands.
The response from the young, however, has been lukewarm.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang