It is that time of the year when farmers of Pemathang in Samdrupjongkhar transplant the popular rice variety, Khamte.

There is sufficient irrigation water in Pemathang this year, which is supported by timely rain. But the unavailability of the power tiller parts to repair the plough is bothering the rice farmers, who also cultivate other varieties like AP and Masina.

Farmer Singye Dorji, 32, said, that until last year, residents faced irrigation water shortage but this year, it is the unavailability of power tiller parts. “ The plough gets damaged and there is no place to get the parts,” he said.

He said his power tiller has been lying idle for a year since he could not get the parts he had ordered from the Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) in Khangma, Trashigang. When he followed up on the order, he was asked to come to Khangma. “I couldn’t go.”

Pemathang gewog’s power tiller is always engaged and farmers have to wait for their turn. “There is also fuel shortage, as the gewog office doesn’t keep fuel.”

The farmer said that if power tiller parts were available, he could have earned about Nu 60,000 to 70,000. “It would have helped farmers like us to earn some income.” Farmers pay Nu 1,500 to hire a power tiller a day.

Pemathang gewog officials said power tillers get damaged after using twice or more but they always try to get it repaired. Officials say they cannot repair it, as the parts are not available and that they intend to raise the issue in the up coming dzongkhag tshogdu.

Meanwhile, another farmer, Dil Maya, 40, said since it is difficult to deploy power tillers, she uses oxen to plough her fields. She said she collects about 16 bags of rice every year from an acre of wetland that she cultivates as a sharecropper.

She said she has to pay Nu 250 a day to female and Nu 500 to male farm helpers.

Dil Maya said farmers who are into rice business cultivate Khamte but she always cultivates Masina, which she believes is better because locals believe that Khamte has less nutrition.

A class 10 student of Jampeling Higher Secondary School in Kanglung, Tashi Wangmo, said she is using her summer break to help her parents during the cultivation season, as there is labour shortage. “Helping my parents made me realise how our parents struggle back at the village.”

Kelzang Wangchuk | Pemathang