Seven years after the Land Act 2007 came into being, it is to take effect on the ground

Land: The long wait of farmers to lease tsamdro (pastureland) and sokshing (leaf litter collection) from the government will soon be over.

The lease of tsamdros and sokshings will be executed according to the provisions of the Land Act 2007, seven years after the law was enacted.  Home minister Damcho Dorji said the “nitty gritty” on leasing procedures have been finalised. “It’s important for the land Act to be implemented for farmers’ benefits,” he said.

According to the Act, an individual household or community owning livestock is eligible to lease the reverted tsamdro.  While leasing tsamdro, preference will be given to previous rights holders and communities.

With the enactment of the Land Act 2007, tsamdros and sokshings were nationalised and reverted into national reserve forests seven years ago.  However, the government is yet to compensate any of the farmers.

Tsamdros will be leased based on herd size and highlanders, who are directly dependent on tsamdro, may retain their tsamdro rights under lease, irrespective of possession of livestock and their herd size.

The lease for highlanders will be for a period not less than 30 years.  That could extend.

Sokshing will be leased to those, who have agricultural land.  It can be leased to individual as well as to community bases, and preference will be given to previous rights holders.

On the delay in implementation of the land Act, lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the government had to streamline certain issues, like restricting the lease of tsamdros within one’s dzongkhag.

“Also, rich people, who owned tsamdros, are no more in villages,” he said.

During a question and answer session in the National Council (NC) last year, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said implementation would begin from July 2014.

However, opposition leader and former agriculture minister, (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, said a lot of issues should be streamlined before implementing the Act with respect to tsamdro and sokshing.  He said the basic premises on which tsamdros are to be leased out to farmers are flawed”.

He said the former government tried to address the issues through an amendment of the land Act, but the land (amendment) bill 2012 was withdrawn even before it was put up for discussion in Parliament. “We’d have addressed some problems by amending the land act,” he said.

The opposition leader said the Land Act 2007 assumes that the tsamdros are physically demarcated and vegetated with pasture and grass. “But this is not the case. Tsamdro means the areas where farmers have grazing rights,” he said.

“Legally, socially and practically, there are a lot of issues in the implementation of the land act with regard to the leasing out of sokshings and tsamdros,” he said. “In some cases, the areas prescribed in the thrams don’t exist on the ground. There’s also overlapping of tsamdro rights, where a single tsamdro have multiple owners,” he said.

Another problem, he said, was that, regardless of agriculture ecological zones – alpine, temperate or sub-tropical – the land act prescribes same physical and use rights, which, he said, was not the case on the ground.

He explained that, in the temperate zone, it was not easy to lease out agricultural lands to farmers, as tsamdros in the region consists of fallow land and forests. “So, practically, it isn’t easy to lease out tsamdros as prescribed in the land Act,” he said.

He said leasing out tsamdros would also entail a substantial amount of money to the government in payment of compensation to the farmers.  Moreover, because of socio-economic development, the tsamdro scenario is changing, and owning of large herds is becoming increasingly irrelevant. For instance, he said, herders from Bumthang have stopped migrating to other dzongkhags, except for a few.

Lhuentse MP  Karma Rangdol said people from his constituency approached him, requesting that sokshing and tsamdro rights in private lagthrams be reinstated. “We weren’t able to tackle the issue during our government’s time. But I hope that the people’s aspirations will be solved during the present government’s tenure,” he said.

Local leaders rued the apathy of the two governments to the farmer’s plight.  Gasa’s Khamaed gup, Karma Tshering, said the land Act was passed seven years ago, but lack of its implementation has irked the highlanders. “It’s all talk and no action,” he said.

Dzongkhag tshogdu chairman of Trashigang, Kinzang Dorji, said tsamdro and sokshing is a big issue with the people in the eastern and northern parts of the country.  The delay is affecting the livelihood of many who depend on livestock.


By MB Subba