Two days ago, a 28-year-old Kinley Gyeltshen walked out of Bhutan National Bank branch office in Wangduephodrang, contented and relieved.
He had just liquidated his Nu 500,000 loan he availed in March last year from the bank. Kinley Gyeltshen was the first recipient of loan under the Priority Sector Lending Scheme (PSL), the Royal Monetary Authority initiated.
With a good financial discipline, the 28-year-old is also the first PSL beneficiary to liquidate his loan before the end of the loan period.
In March last year, he availed the loan at eight percent interest for a period of one year.
“I was a bit skeptical,” he said. His concern was whether he would be able to repay the loan within the stipulated time. “With the constant guidance and advise of the PSL committee, I was able to pay the loan before the term expired,” he said.
But his story is similar to the stories of other youth who are hunting for jobs in the concrete gullies of the capital. With a bachelors degree from Banglore, India, he was another jobseeker.
A son of farmers in Sha Khothakha, he spent his teens learning the skills required for potato farming. “Even while studying in college, farming was at the back of my mind,” he said.
He got a job in a private mining company but realised that he could save none and the salary was barely adequate to meet his expenditure.
When he heard of the PSL and that it would support agricultural activities, he grew more passionate.
He sought assistance from “Google Rinpoche” and YouTube to learn more about potato farming including the soil fertility. His application was approved and he was into the task right after.
By then, he had already gathered the potato seeds. The loan helped him with the fencing and to refurbish his store in his traditional house.
“It entails tremendous amount of physical work and it was difficult in the beginning,” he said. He also tried new methods and claims it is quite different from what his parents and grandparents did.
By the end of monsoon, Kinley’s potatoes were growing on more than eight acres of land in Khothakha. He believes he belongs to farm and likes to call himself a country boy.
Then came harvest season and his yield filled three and half truckloads. At the auction yard in Phuentsholing, it fetched him more than Nu 850,000. This is only 80 percent of his yield. The remaining 20 percent, he said was absorbed in the local market.
When the potatoes left the field barren, he planted turnip and mustard. “Cattle feed in winter was in short supply in the southern dzongkhags,” he said. The turnips and mustard are now supplied to southern dzongkhags as cattle feed.
After repaying his loan, he said, he could save more than Nu 300,000. He is looking forward to invest the saving in his farm and diversify the crops. “If I was a salaried employee, I would have never saved that much amount even in five years, ” he said.