Upland Rice Cultivation Reduces Need to Import of Rice
Seventy-year-old Angay Tshering Lham of Ganglapong recalls producing enough rice about 13 years back in their Chhuzhing (terraced wetland) at Rendibe. Rendibe is located downhill along the side of Tsatichu, a small rivulet which is fed by the famous Lhadong Lake.
However, in 2004, the flash flood from the outburst of Lhadong Lake washed away the entire wetlands in Rendibe. This natural disaster hit the farmers of Ganglapong hard as they were left without wetland for rice cultivation. Farmers had no option but to buy the imported rice from Autsho, the nearest local town.
The disaster served as the entry point for upland rice in Ganglapong. After the flood, some farmers pioneered the cultivation of upland rice with some seeds introduced from Kurtoe, their neighboring district. However, the cultivation was limited to few households in a small area due to the severe crop predation by wild animals. Although the cultivation of upland rice in Ganglapong was over a decade old, farmers did not have a suitable variety.
Recognizing the potential of upland rice in Ganglapong, it was selected as the project site for the Rice Conservation project (Participatory Conservation and Utilization of Rice Genetic Resources for Livelihood and Food Security) implemented by the National Biodiversity Center in collaboration with Research and Development Center (RDC), Wengkhar and Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector of Mongar. This project funded by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) aimed to improve participatory conservation, development and utilization of rice genetic resources.
When the project idea was discussed with the communities, they were very interested as any work on rice would directly contribute to their household food security. The main constraint of the farmers was the lack of a suitable upland rice variety.
The project activities started in 2012 with the introduction of five new upland rice varieties under the Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) trial. At the end of the rice season, farmers assessed the varieties based on their own selection criteria. Considering the yield and colour of the milled rice most farmers preferred Zangthi 1 which is an improved traditional red rice variety. This variety also produced the highest yield.
With a good variety at their disposal, Ganglapong farmers have not looked back. The adoption of Zangthi 1 has rapidly increased, resulting in substantial increase in production. More farmers were supplied with 5-10 kg of free seed supported by the rice project.
As a result of the successful promotion of upland rice, Ganglapong farmers’ dependency on imported rice has been reduced from 80-90% to 20-30% t. Ap Sonam Tenzin of Banjar very proudly reports that in 2014 he earned Nu. 30,000 by selling seeds of upland rice to the Agriculture Extension Office for distribution to other interested farmers. Today, the farmers of Ganglapong happily say, “Earlier we were very hesitant to welcome guests because we had no local rice to offer but now we can proudly offer them our locally produced red rice.” Eating locally produced rice is considered a social prestige in the Bhutanese society.
Farmers now have a choice of six upland rice varieties. Further, the project has supported the communities with solar powered electric fencing to help them protect their crop from the increasing predation by wild animals. Farmers have also been provided with improved tools and paddle thresher to encourage them to continue the cultivation and sustainable conservation of rice in their village.
The success of upland rice has also been extended to the neighboring Banjar village that has a very similar agro-ecological setting like Ganglapong. In the 2016 season, over 80 households will be supported with free seeds of new upland rice varieties.
HARVESTS: Farmers’ Success Stories
Copyright 2016 Bhutan National Biodiversity Center and Ministry of Agriculture and Forests