Choki Wangmo 

When the agriculture ministry announced urban agriculture initiative, people immediately started forming groups to start vegetable farming. Then, true to form, came another notice from the ministry the same day—the agriculture department will not register the groups.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the registration was put on hold because the department was in the process of procuring fallow land in the peri-urban areas of Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue, and Punakha.

“As the government land in the core town areas is not feasible for cultivation,” said the minister and that alternatives were being sought in the Dogar Gewog in Paro and Mewang Gewog in Thimphu.

On March 26, the Department of Agriculture asked individuals to register for kitchen garden opportunities. The announcement read: “The Department of Agriculture (DoA) in collaboration with National Land Commission and Thimphu Thromde is mobilising land resources within the thromde for kitchen gardening opportunities to those who do not have a backyard garden space. DoA will undertake the initial land development and seed supplies.”

The move was initiated to boost local production in the Covid-19’s wake. More than 100 interested groups registered with the department.

Director of DoA, Kinlay Tshering, said the initial registration was a test to see if people in the urban areas were interested in agriculture.

She said the department was carrying out technical feasibility and site identification studies. “We are recording the numbers of agriculture youth groups and fallow lands so that we can link them together. It depends on the willingness of the people.”

“The fallow land in the core town area has water problems so we are exploring different locations,” she said.

Groups have begun expressing their frustration on social media.