Bhutan’s Paddy Crop Victim of Climate Change?

A Bhutanese newspaper blames global warming to uneven weather patterns that are negatively affecting the farming communities in rural Bhutan.

Posted on 10/17/13
By Editorial | Via Kuensel Online
Children looking out on terraced fields in Bhutan. (Photo by World Bank Photo Collection)
Children looking out on terraced fields in Bhutan. (Photo by World Bank Photo Collection)

The forces of nature have overwhelmed some farmers in western Bhutan.  Within one week, their hope of a good harvest was turned into despair as the clear skies at the beginning of the week gave way to heavy rains last night (October 14).

Farmers were so close to reap the fruit of a year round hard work, when they laid their harvested paddy to dry and thresh.  Like often in the past, the vagaries of nature threaten to snatch that away.  The damage caused will be known when the rain ceases and an assessment may be made.  But as of now, it has been proved once again, that man is not the master of all he surveys.

Harvest season in Bhutan coincides with the retreating monsoon and, every year, farmers are cautious in starting to harvest. Yet every year, crops are lost to rain, at times an entire harvest when the retreating monsoon acts up.  The heavy rain last evening, and the lighter one earlier on Sunday, was a result of cyclone Phailin, which devastated some parts of India, claiming lives and destroying homes and crops.

Paddy crop destroyed by rains in Bhutan. (Photo via Kuensel Online)
Paddy crop destroyed by rains in Bhutan. (Photo via Kuensel Online)

For Bhutan, largely an agrarian society, the erratic weather is becoming a concern.  Not long ago, we would leave it to our fate, but now we are beginning to understand that weather patterns are not going to get any better, and we, humans, are the architects of our own fate.

Unfortunately, the irony is that, although Bhutan might have the best environment preservation policies and is one of the global hotspots, we are victims of human behavior globally.  That is why farmers in the Himalayas can be affected by a weather phenomenon developed in the Pacific Ocean.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirms that human activities are responsible for rising temperatures and increased climate instability across the world.  That has been said so many times before.  What is not said is how the climate will change from place to place.  Experts say that climate models still cannot predict impacts at local and regional scales.  But it is clear, they warn, that everybody is vulnerable in some way.

Given our location and our fragile ecosystem, we have more reasons to worry.  Therefore, the need of information.  Had our farmers known that there would be rains, they could have postponed the harvest by a few days.  While there are resources and know how to forecast weather, it seems those in need are not getting the information.

Farmers may own TV, mobile phones and radio sets, but there is no real time communication.  Therefore, we have rumors in Paro Dob Shari that the rain will continue for 10 days. Were we better when the village chipon ran from house to house informing villagers of impending danger?

This editorial was first published in Kuensel Online, a Bhutanese news website. Click here to go to the original.

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