From daily wages to self-sufficiency, Phangyuel’s transformative irrigation scheme

Getting a reliable irrigation has become transformative for the people of Phangyuel in Wangdue Phodrang. Their reliance on daily wages to sustain livelihoods is becoming a thing of the past. For too long, their ability to produce rice was hindered by inadequate irrigation. Today, as paddy transplantation efforts are in full swing across the gewog, there is renewed hope and anticipation.

73-year-old Tashi Dorji is working in his paddy field with renewed energy after fourteen years at Goenkhar. Although he is up in years, he works hard as he is the sole bread earner in his family.

Otherwise, at this time of year, Tashi Dorji would go beyond his village to work on daily wages. Many others in his village depend heavily on daily wages. Reflecting on those times, Tashi recalls the hardships they encountered.

“We used to go to Bjena Gewog and Nyisho Gewog in Wangdue Phodrang, and Lingmukha Gewog in Punakha to work for daily wages. There were lots of challenges. For younger people, it was not a big problem, but for elderly ones like me, it was really difficult. I had to go as I have many mouths to feed. We had to buy imported rice for ration.”

With the new irrigation facility, people are also starting to return home. Phub Lham and her husband recently returned to their village after spending two years in Thimphu running a shop.

 “Since there was no irrigation water here, we could not do anything to repay our loans despite trying every possible way. So, we moved out from our village and left to Thimphu by keeping our house construction work incomplete. After we heard about the new irrigation scheme, we left Thimphu and returned home to cultivate paddy. We are happy as we can transplant paddy on time this year. We are expecting to enjoy our own rice now on,” said Phub Lham.

Other farmers look back on the bygone days and share how difficult their lives used to be.

Phurba said, “Though we have enough land, we had to go to other places to work for wages due to lack of irrigation water so far. There were lots of challenges. Sometime, we used to get late at work due to the distance. Likewise, we used to get late in the evening while returning home from work. Then we have to do other chores, so it used to get really late when we finally call it a day.”

Likewsie, Wangchuk said, “We were earning only Nu 700 for a day’s work, which is barely sufficient for us. It also affects our own works back home. Now, we are hoping to savour our own produce and sell some if there is any surplus.”

The gewog still has fallow land. More people are expected to return home gradually to make use of their land.

This transformative initiative worth Nu 550 M was inaugurated earlier this month which was funded by the Green Climate Fund and the government through the support of United Nations Development Programme.

And for the farmers, the prospect of tasting their own rice once again next year symbolizes not just a harvest of grains but also a harvest of newfound independence and security

Changa Dorji, Wangdue Phodrang

 Edited by Kipchu

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