Nichula gewog agriculture office’s drive for winter chilli production has motivated a 27-year-old man from Gangtokha village to drop dairy farming and start growing chillies.

Tanka Bahadur Chhetri switched to winter chilli farming last year by growing the spice on a 50 decimal land and produced 1.8 metric tonnes (MT) of chillies. “Along with chilli, I have cultivated garlic, peas, tomatoes, and beans,” he said.

He said the gewog agriculture office has been supportive in his endeavour and provided him a poly house, mulching plastic, pluck tray, water motor, and drip pipe.

Although his field is located amidst a thick forest, which makes it easy for elephants to encroach, Tanka Bahadur Chhetri is undeterred.

Watering his fields manually, he said he would like to expand his farm to more than 10 acres. “The agriculture officer said the government would provide me poly houses on subsidy.”

He also said he wants to grow chillies, tomatoes, and cauliflower, in both summer and winter.

Nichula is a remote gewog without motorable road and farmers also face a major challenge in battling wild elephants. There is also water shortage.

Tanka Bahadur Chhetri said he sources water to his field through the jungle from his house. “But farming is my interest and I am now a professional,” he said.

The class XII Commerce graduate also got an opportunity to visit Vietnam for two weeks last year through the support of Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project (FSAPP) from Japan. The Nichula gewog agriculture office selected him.

“I learned that commercial farming should be the focus in our country,” he said, adding that Bhutan needs to learn certain standards and systems in farming.

With government support in place, the country’s economy would improve if it can replace all the imported vegetables. “It could create employment too.”

Tanka Bahadur harvested 15 kilograms in the first harvesting time this season. He is expecting to produce more than 1.5MT of chillies in the next harvest.

He said he is targeting to sell vegetables in all the places, as far as Haa and Bumthang.

He said he also would like to generate employment for unemployed village youth. “If everything goes as per the plan, I want to lease more land and increase the commercial farming.”

Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha