The Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI) in Dewathang is upscaling the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a new farming method to increase to improve food security, increase rural incomes and reduce the vulnerability of rural households in the district.
Less than eight percent of country’s land is suitable for cultivation and there is a subsequent loss of arable land as the country experiences fast pace infrastructure development even in far-flung areas.
Project coordinator with SJI, Cheku Dorji, said SRI was tested in Pemathang and Langchenphu gewogs in 2014. Yield was 28 percent higher in Pemathang. Langchenphu also recorded higher yield and farmers are now taking note of these new trials by conducting their own home farm trials, which started in 2015.
Rekhey village has been now chosen as another pilot area, which is closer to the SJI office and will enable SJI to constantly monitor and respond to farmers’ needs. SRI also reduces water requirement and promotes less reliance on artificial fertilisers according to Cheku Dorji.
According to SJI research, rice and maize are the major crops cultivated by the farmers in Rekhey with 28 households cultivating paddy with a total yield of around 31,425 kilogrammes annually.
Of the 28 households, 19 households own more than an acre of paddy land and on average each household produces around 1,200 kgs of paddy rice.
Cheku Dorji said that SJI also plans to focus on healthy seed harvesting and seed saving including revival of local rice variety to enhance agro-diversity. “While commercialisation of agriculture is important, nutrient value of the food and nutrition security of households will not be undermined,” he said.
SJI also plans to bring other paddy cultivators from other villages on farm for awareness creation and to build confidence in SRI.
Jigme Namgyel Engineering College will be part of the programme in terms of creating appropriate technology for application in the field and the agriculture extension agents will also continue to be an important partner and stakeholder in SRI.
SRI results will be disseminated to farmers around the country through the AEO-SJI network, SJI’s social media platform and will also add to the body of study done by Professor Norman Uphoff of Cornell University.
The Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI) is a civil society founded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, based in the Samdrup Jongkhar dzongkhag and its initial purpose is to raise living standards in the district.
Bhutan Foundation has been the sole supporter of this new venture.