Nima | Gelephu 

A youth group, which helps farmers of remote Chhuzom gewog in Sarpang sell their agriculture and livestock products by collecting it from the doorstep is struggling to sustain.

Chhuzom Nazhoen Detsen was formed in February this year with 17 members. The group has nine members today.

Marketing to Gelephu, which is 68km away from the gewog was difficult without a reliable road connection.

The gewog was cut off for about a month after a flash flood washed away some parts of gewog centre road that connects Chhuzom with Gelephu and other parts of Sarpang in summer.

The group goes till the nearest road point to collect vegetable and livestock products in vehicle and then walks on foot to collect the farm produce.

The group approached the gewog administration to support them with storage facilities and financially to ensure continued service.

Chhuzom gup, Bishnu Prasad Rai, said the group hires vehicles for marketing and pays more than Nu 12,000 as transportation cost.

The gewog administration also handed over a market shed located in Chhuzom town to the group to be used as storeroom and office set up.

The chairperson of the group, Garjaman Rai, said they are running on loss because of door-to-door collection. “Road conditions are bad. We couldn’t meet the maintenance cost of vehicles. The expenditure for collection is high.”

He said the group struggles to reach the market in Gelephu on time in monsoon. “Vegetables get damaged on the way.”

The group had divided chiwogs among themselves to ensure fast collection. The farmers come to drop vegetables at the collection point, mostly towards the evening.

Garjaman Rai said it would help the group sustain their initiative if agencies concerned support them with minimal compensation if possible.

“There are many farmers who are into large-scale farming now. We need to continue our initiative,” he said.

The youth collects over 600 kilos of vegetables from the gewog in a week. The group sold more than three tonnes during the lockdown in Sarpang.

Another member, Ranjana Rai, said scattered settlement makes it difficult to collect vegetables.

The group packs the vegetables in the evening, which takes until midnight to finish packaging. The group keeps the load ready to move early morning the next day.

“We continue our journey towards Gelephu in the morning. We worked in turns earlier but now men are engaged in marketing,” said Ranjana.

The group helped to boost farming in Chhuzom. However, most of the earning from  selling vegetables are spent on repairing vehicles used to ferry produce to Gelephu.

The number of farmers taking up agriculture farming had increased, almost by three folds in the last one year.

Gup Bishnu Prasad Rai, said farmers could sell their farm produce easily because of the group’s door-to-door marketing initiatives.

“Farmers here grew cardamom but they are now growing vegetables too,” he said. “That helps in diversification of farming practices.”

The pandemic and declining market for cardamom is helping farmers take up commercial vegetable farming.

According to the gup, there were many school dropouts in the gewog. “We convinced them to form a group and take up the opportunity. The gewog is trying to help them equip with required storage facilities.”

Meanwhile, farmer Goray Sanu Rai from Galaythang said farmers don’t have to worry about marketing their produce now. “I have increased my vegetable farming from 10 to 50 decimal land.”

He said that before the youth group initiated the marketing,  the only market he could explore was to a nearby school and small gewog town.