Toedtsho Gewog without agriculture extension officer

The gewog extension office has remained closed for a year and three months now after the former agriculture extension officer was taken for attachment with the dzongkhag administration

Lhakpa Tshering

At the heart of the rural economy, agriculture officials hold a critical role in providing basic technical supports direct to the farmers in the field. However, the farmers of Toedtsho Gewog in Trashi Yangtse are concerned about not having an agriculture extension officer for more than a year and still counting.

The gewog extension office has remained closed for a year and three months now. This means that the farmers most reliant on agriculture are unable to take a hand to help them up in going their normal and daily business given that the support of agriculture extension is required for any farming activities.

The agriculture extension officer who used to work with the gewog was sent to its dzongkhag for behavioral change after the gewog complained about not being helpful in the community on the ground of going against the codes of ethics for civil servant and since then, no one has been appointed.

Although talks to find a replacement started, it could still be months to get a new extension officer in place. “Despite the long wait and having raised the issue repeatedly at different forums and with government officials, the gewog never received a replacement,” says Toedtsho Gup Dechen Wangdi.

He said, initially, the dzongkhag had taken the extension officer for a year-long attachment with the dzongkhag administration. “But sending back the former extension officer seems not good for the community’s long-term health,” he said.

The gewog, therefore, has put up the replacement requisition with the dzongkhag administration, local government office, and agriculture ministry. “Given that some chewogs are scattered across the border, it requires hours and days of walk,” Dechen Wangdi. “One has to be able to walk and keep the crop healthy. But this is not happening here.”

According to him, the dzongkhag administration claimed that officials are not willing to be posted in the area to take a stance. “But the dzongkhag or ministry can reshuffle among the gewogs if the agriculture extension officer is not appointed,” he added.

Though the gewog doesn’t have the officiating agriculture extension officer, it is overseeing and monitoring by the Khamdang Gewog agriculture extension officer. “But having our own extension staff would be easier than calling the officer from the gewog,” Gup Dechen Wangdi said, adding the appropriate support must be made available to farmers at all times.

The unavailability of an agriculture extension officer has not seen public services collapse, but the troubled farmers are eager to share their woes saying that such a situation is problematic and a cause for concern, particularly in times of pandemic.

Calling it a challenging time in their community, Jangphutse Tshogpa Taupo, who also feels abandoned, says the farmers are frustrated about the lives of their agriculture with delay in supply of agriculture inputs on time in their far-flung village.

“The entire population is associated with agriculture farming and we have been unable to get about our problems,” he said, adding it stymied the link between the farmers and dzongkhag to the monitoring of crops and advice farmers for the proper crop management.

Some farmers here say if the current trend continues, the impacts will be of different levels on their rural agricultural output in both the long-run and short-run which is, in a sense, a slap in the face.

Though the farmers here understand the basics of pest management and how diseases hamper crop productivity, they are unaware of innovative farming and how to tackle and avoid various diseases.