Employment: If all goes according to plan, schools in Zhemgang will have ample supply of dairy products soon. This is because a cooperative in the locality, Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) group, intends to supply dairy products to the schools in the dzongkhag.

KNC was started in 2014 by 16 youth from the dzongkhag. The cooperative, as of today, has turned 99 acres of fallow land in the dzongkhag  and produces pickles, and potato and banana chips.

To keep the farmers engaged in agriculture works and to meet their vegetable demands for the factory, KNC has formed farmers groups in Kikhar, Tali and nearby areas where farmers supply vegetables to them.

At least 32 acres of land in the dzongkhag are used for growing vegetables. The farmers in the area sell their vegetables to the factory.

To sustain the business, the group has also leased seven acres of land from the people of Tama and planted cardamom. The group pays Nu 650 an acre as rent to the farmers annually.

To operate the factory in winter, the group has identified 60 acres of paddy fields in Goling village to cultivate chili in winter.

KNC’s chairperson, Thinley Wangdi, said that the main aim is to make use of the paddy fields that are left unused in winter. “People here do not cultivate anything in the fields in winter,” he said. “We will make use of the fields and farmers can earn some cash.”

The group has already planted chili seedlings near their factory.

The members collect raw materials from the villages and sell their products like pickles and chips to schools. The group also buys bananas from farmers, store it until it ripens and sells to nearby schools.

The group has also supplied 6,000 bottles of pickle products through the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) after they signed an MoU last year.

Meanwhile, KNC members said that while their business is just picking up, they were able to repay their monthly loan of Nu 55,000 and pay themselves salaries. “We have also saved money in our joint account. We intend to purchase machineries for the factory in future,” a member said.

Thinley Wangdi said they would not be able to increase their wages for the next few years, as they will still have to save more. The members are paid about Nu 7,000 a month.

However, the members say they are happy with their work, as they don’t have to look for employment.

Tashi Wangmo, a vocational institute graduate, said that she is happy and satisfied with what she is earning. “I am happy with what I am contributing to the locality.”

The task ahead for the cooperative, according to Thinley Wangdi, is to collaborate with livestock officials and farmers to supply diary products to the schools.

Tashi Tenzin