The National Plant Protection Center (NPPC) in Simtokha, Thimphu is exploring new and affordable storage facilities to safeguard maize from pests and insects.
NPPC will construct secured storage facilities in nine identified gewogs under three dzongkhags Chhukha, Dagana and Monggar, as a pilot project in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
More than a thousand farmers were provided capacity development training along with extension officers on good storage practices in Nepal in 2017. NPPC has procured maize drier, sheller and super bags designed especially for grain storage to provide to the farmers.
Maize, considered a staple diet in most parts of the country is being stored using primitive methods and has therefore been a target for pests and other predators. It has been reported that 50% of the harvested crops is lost to predators. However now, NPPC is planning to provide affordable sheds to farmers to protect their maize after harvest. Each shed is expected to cost around Nu 50,000 according to the NPPC officials.
NPP has also conducted a second Training of Trainers for the agriculture extension officers in Phuentsholing who will then implement the project in their respective gewogs.
Additionally, NPPC will provide special packing bags to the farmers to protect the crop from pests and rodents. Also, they will be providing shelling machines to the farmers with support from FAO.
“Maize is a staple diet in Bhutan but people still follow primitive methods to store it leaving it prone to pests and diseases so we are exploring ways to attain food self sufficiency. We are coordinating with all the stakeholders to make it successful,” said plant protection specialist with NPPC, Dr. Thinlay.
A survey conducted by NPPC found the country’s storage practices very poor. Reportedly 2-50% of crops across the country is lost from the storage facilities to pests and fungi. “It’s a recognized problem faced by rural farmers. We are exploring possibilities to solve the problem,” said Dr. Thinlay.
After conducting a research on crop damage in the nine gewogs of three dzongkhags, the facilities will be provided to them initially.
Chhukha Dzongkhag’s Agriculture Officer Saha Bir Rai said that the initiative would help farmers in safeguarding their yield and ultimately in achieving food self sufficiency. “We are now ready with materials to implement the initiative,” he said. Currently, the materials are stored in Darla gewog and will soon be distributed to other identified gewogs.
Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing