Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

Three graduates of Gangzur in Lhuentse came together to cultivate in fields that have remained fallow for the past four decades.

This was not by choice, however.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, a general university graduate, a College of Natural Resources diploma graduate and a VTI graduate came up in farming two months ago.

They leased the six acres of paddy field belonging to Jangchubling Dratshang in Nyimshong, Gangzur gewog.

But they were lucky. Tarayana Foundation and Lhuentse dzongkhag administration rendered support.

Known as Serjong Farm, they have grown three acres of beans, an acre each of soya beans and passion fruit.

They expect their first harvest in September.

The group also started cultivating 300 bags of oyster mushroom cultivation for faster income.

Tarayana Foundation provides support for clearing the fields, work shed construction, irrigation water pipes and seedlings.

“The foundation was looking for interested youth group in the region to assist in food production for self-sufficiency to combat Covid-19 and they came forward,” the foundation’s focal person in Lhuentse, Sonam Jamtsho said.

A member of the group, Dawa Drakpa, a Bachelor of Computer Application graduate said he was looking for contract work in the dzongkhag. He returned from India after working for a few years and doing contract work in Gelephu and decided to take up farming given its potential to earn.

“It was challenging initially as the beans were destroyed by the insects, yet we are positive,” he said.

The group aspires to be a role model in the dzongkhag with integrated farming adding poultry and dairy farm in future.

The market is not an issue for the group, for Jangchubling Dratshang and Lhuentse Rabdey dratshang have agreed to buy their vegetables, and there are schools nearby.

“Most of the farmers are not able to market their farm produce and this discourages them to work in the field. We want to boost their interest by collecting their produce, add value and help to sell them with a small profit margin,” the 28-year-old said.

The dzongkhag administration through gewog agriculture extension provided technical assistance and supplied seeds. Training has been committed through CARLEP project.

“We’ll observe their commitment if it’s genuine, dzongkhag has even plan to expand our support like provision of greenhouses,” the assistant dzongkhag agriculture officer (ADAO), Sonam Phuntsho said.

Meanwhile, Lhuentse dzongkhag is also initiating vegetable intensification program through the reappropriation of CARLEP project fund by making a contingency plan and using the approved budget for the economic stimulus plan.

From the reappropriated budget of Nu 5.3 million, the ADAO, said 39 sets of greenhouses on top of the eight 20/5m greenhouses in the planned activities are being procured for farmers’ groups and individual progressive farmers.

The farmers were identified jointly with gewog extension offices. The equipment is expected to arrive in July and would be supplied at 80 percent discount.

Dzongkhag agriculture officials said the focus would be on protected cultivation of chillies, tomatoes and onions as major import substitute mainly in fallow lands. With this plan, around 76 acres are expected to be cultivated.

The dzongkhag is also working on Nu 6.8M approved by the Gross National Happiness Commission as part of the economic stimulus plan.

“We’ll take Covid-19 situation as an advantage to boost domestic agriculture production and the dzongkhag is committed not to import vegetables in the post-pandemic situation,” Sonam Phuntsho said.