Harvest Time in Bhutan- It is the happy time for peasants for the bountiful harvest
This time of the year, the lush green valleys and hills have turned into a mellow yellow field. Farmers are seen at their field to harvest paddy. ‘The year-long wait for the bountiful harvest is here, sings the farmers.
Bhutan has an area of 38,394 km and a population of approximately 700,000. It is a landlocked country situated on the south-eastern slope of the Himalayas. Over 72% of the country is under forest cover. The cultivated area is only about 3%, including wetland, dryland for horticulture crops, and fallow rotation. Rice is indispensable in the Bhutanese culture, tradition, religion, and farmers’ livelihoods. More than 69% of the population is engaged in farming with rice and maize as the main crops. Although rice is not the largest produced cereal in the country, it is the most widely consumed cereal.
Today the domestic production of rice has not been able to meet the demand due to low productivity. The domestic production of rice meets only about 50% of the total requirement. The deficit is met with rice imports from neighboring India. The insufficiency in rice stems from several factors such as limited wetland, use of low yielding traditional cultivars, low use of plant nutrients from inorganic fertilizers, weeds, diseases, and insect pests, and limited irrigation water supply.
Rice is grown from tropical lowlands (200 m) in the south up to elevations as high as 2700 m in the north. Because of Bhutan’s rugged topography, rice fields are generally terraced. To encourage farmers to cultivate rice, His Majesty the King of Bhutan has gifted 5 acres of land to needy ones to practice subsistence farming.
Iconic Paddy Field
Like the rice terraces of Bali that attract hundreds of tourists, the rice terraces near the most important landmark in the capital city of Thimphu namely Tashichodzong is the most photographed rice terrace in Bhutan. According to the locals, The land is given on lease to the farmers by the monarch to grow paddy without having to pay anything as compensation. The rice grown in the field is red rice.
These days, farmers are harvesting paddy around the vicinity. Most of the farmers working on the field are women from the eastern part of Bhutan. Out of curiosity reporter asked if the farmers migrated to the west in the capital city to work, many said they were housewives. For some of them, they have been working on the paddy field as seasonal labor for ages.
In a day, the labors are fed three meals with refreshments and local alcohol to the end of the day. Most of the farmers out in the field are loud with flamboyant characters. Imagine yourself harvesting paddy with your jovial neighbors, gossiping about the newly married couple in the village, having packed lunch, drinking local booze to keep you high and energetic. Singing to the rhythm of the wind and teasing man who passes by the field to quench your thirst by buying you bottles of alcohol.
The day slips in sharing only laugher and joy. The workplace like a playground and that is exactly why farmers at the paddy field though under the basking sun are seen as happy and full of energy.
In Bhutan, the paddy is mostly harvested thus the manpower plays a crucial role in paddy cultivation and harvest. If one wishes to experience the farmer's life in Bhutan, we recommend you to tuck your sleeves, put on gumboots and join the farmers in the field. This will be the most memorable experience of one's life in one season, the autumn season in Bhutan.