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The rice bowl
Radhi Phongmey lto Phongmey, Waaktsa Beeley lto Mala.
It is a local saying in Trashigang, loosely meaning "Radhi and Phongmey have rice, but there is no rice to feed the children". It is meant to point out that Radhi and Phongmey, Radhi more than Phongmey, cultivates rice while the rest of the dzongkhag grows the popular staple grain, maize. The children bit is a joke.

"Even as a child in the village I remember this saying," says Norbu Wangdi of Bidung geog which lies on the opposite hill facing Radhi. "

When we looked across, Radhi was an expanse of paddy fields." Apart from the well known Burey weaves, Radhi is the biggest producer of rice in the country's largest dzongkhag. In 2000, it produced about 8,64,495-kilogramme of rice, from an official 512-acre of wet land.

A study carried out last year showed that Radhi was the most profuse rice producing geog in Trashigang followed by Phongmey and Bidung. Phongmey, with 353-acre of wet land, produced an average 376.714 kg an acre last year.

"By all means, Radhi is the rice bowl of Trashigang," said a Trashigang dzongkhag official. "I buy my rice for the year from Radhi farmers." So do a lot of others. Hotels in Trashigang serve Radhi rice to customers; people travelling from Trashigang to other parts of the country take Radhi rice as a gift.

Tashigang (Trashigang) town

Radhi geog, in north Trashigang, is a gentle slope of terraced paddy fields dropping down from Tonglingphu and Phongmey in the north and north-west to the banks of the river Yudiri chhu in the south and ending in the south-east where the Rangjung urban settlement starts.

In winter the geog wears a forsaken look. Except for cattle feeding on the hacked paddy stumps on the terraces and the local transport service truck from Trashigang roaring up the dusty feeder road there is not much activity. At night, the dark looming hill is dotted with light bulbs that hang in front of houses of the scattered villages in the geog.

But come April and the Radhipas are busy turning its slopes and ridges green with paddy. According to agriculture officials, production is highest at 1,900-metre where an acre yields about 2.08 MT. At 1,435-metre it is about 2.4 MT an acre, and 1.4 MT per acre at 1,250-metre. "In terms of yield at the mid-altitude level (1500 to 1900-metre) rice production in Radhi is significant and comparable to the Paro and Punakha valleys," says the Trashigang district agriculture officer.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006

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