The fields once left fallow in Berti village in Zhemgang are now filled with watermelons.

The villagers of Berti have started growing watermelon for the first time in commercial scale. The yield is encouraging. There are 12 women growing watermelon together on 2.5 acres of land. The group already existed as a vegetable group.

Pema Zangmo, 33, is one of the farmers who grow watermelon. “I am happy looking at the yield this year,” she said. Last year had a bad year for watermelon.

Choeni Peldon, 52, said agriculture officials told the farmers that they could take up growing watermelons. “We should be able to sell them since we import quite a lot of fruits,” she said.

Choki Lhamo, 44, said she would increase the production if the sell is good this year. She said this should help reduce import of watermelon, at least in Tingtibi and Zhemgang.

Farmers said agriculture officials distributed seedlings. The farmers have also laid some dried leaves beneath watermelons to protect them from rotting.

Officer in-charge of agriculture research and development sub-centre (ARDSC) at Tingtibi, Yeshey Dorji, said that the technology was taken to the fields for the first time in collaboration with the dzongkhag agriculture sector.

“We are up scaling the production,” he said.

He said that the centre distributed the saplings while farmers managed the cultivation by themselves with technical support and monitoring from the centre.

Yeshey Dorji said that the paddy fields otherwise remain fallow at this time until the time of paddy cultivation. Watermelon cultivation is aimed at utilizing the lands judiciously.

“We will harvest them by the first week of June,” he said. The production of watermelon in India decreases and the price shoots up at this time.

Nima Wangdi | Zhemgang