It’s harvest season in Radhi gewog, Trashigang, and the rice bowl of the east has turned golden.
Group of farmers are seen threshing paddy on blue-orange tarpaulins spread along the terraces.
Dechen from Tongling village is busy storing the grains into sacks and transporting it to her house some 300ms from the field.
For the 50-year old, this would be the final harvest for the year.
She scans her one-acre field before settling down for a quick break. “This is it. I was expecting the harvest to be the same as last year but it was a difficult year with wild boars, monkeys and porcupines constantly attacking the field.”
She said she harvested some 600 chagdhi (a measuring container) of paddy, which is about 1,200kg of rice last year. “We had a good harvest then. I was expecting a similar produce this year,” she said.
However, without a proper irrigation system and the increasing incidences of human-wildlife conflict, the harvest is likely to decrease.
She said farmers have to mostly depend on monsoon during transplantation since most irrigation canals are washed away or have become defunct.
The biggest problem faced by the farmers in the gewog is wild animals.
Another farmer, Sherab Zangmo, said that all their hard work is destroyed by the wild boars at night.
“You lose the zeal to work when such things happen,” she said. “But since this is our only means of survival, we don’t have any option but to redo it all over again.”
The 55-year-old farmer said that many villagers have received solar fencing through government support. “The fencing has proven effective. We hope the gewog would provide us too.”
The gewog agriculture extension supervisor, Pema Wangchen, said human-wildlife conflict in the gewog is increasing.
About 13km of solar fencing works was provided to the gewog this year. “We expect the crop production to further improve next year with the fencing works completed,” he said.
He, however, said the paddy production of the gewog is expected to increase this year. “If not, it should remain the same as last year.”
Pema Wangchen reasoned that because of timely monsoon during the transplanting season, they didn’t face any delay in the transplantation.
According to statistics with the dzongkhag agriculture sector, Radhi produced 2,553.59MT of rice in 2017-2018 from 1,236.16 acres of wetland. The yield per acre of land was recorded at 2,065.75kg.
Apart from producing one of the largest quantities of rice in the east, Radhi is also known for its different varieties of rice. The gewog produces some nine varieties of rich of which Sorbang and Sung-sung are popular varieties in the country today.
The Sorbang, meaning lemongrass look-alike rice, also known as Radhi rice, fetches about Nu 65 a kg while the red Sung-Sung rice fetches Nu 70 to 75 a kg.
“Even when it gets cold, the rice is still soft. This is why people, mostly in the west prefer Sorbang rice,” said another farmer. “We receive orders for large quantities but most of the time, we are only self-sufficient.”
Meanwhile, Sherub Zangmo said these are new varieties grown recently in the gewog.
“The rice native to Radhi was called Aassu and was grown since my great-grandfather’s time,” she said. “Now that rice is no more grown because we have better varieties that grow well. Sorbang and Sung-Sung are the new native rice of Radhi.”
Younten Tshedup | Radhi