The festival has encouraged farmers to grow vegetables on a large scale in Sarpang

Celebrating diversity at the Foothills Festival

The last few days have been hectic for Choki Dema from remote Singye gewog in Sarpang.

The Sangaythang chiwog tshogpa not only harvested what she had in her garden but also went around collecting vegetables from other villagers.

Selling the goods at the Foothills Festival in Gelephu Higher Secondary School ground yesterday from the stall allotted to her gewog, Choki said she already earned about Nu 3,000.

She brought vegetables, dairy products, cereals and even brooms. “I already sold five kgs of butter, 30 balls of cheese and vegetables.”

At the foothills: Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering and information and communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi inspect a traditional grinder at the ongoing foothills festival yesterday

At the foothills: Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering and information and communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi inspect a traditional grinder at the ongoing foothills festival yesterday

Choki participated in the festival last year also and made a profit of Nu 10,000.

She said the festival has encouraged many farmers to grow vegetables on large scale in the villages. “Otherwise, people only grew for their own consumption, as they do not have the market. No one would come to our village to buy it.”

In the stall next to Choki’s is Chuku Maya, 40, from Dolpani village of Dekiling gewog.

Besides the farm produces, she also brought pickles for sale.

The mother of four, who is a vegetable vendor in Gelephu, said she didn’t bring many vegetables this year, as they couldn’t sell all the ones they brought last year. “I reduced the quantity, as I sell in the market.”

In her stall, there are seven farmers from the gewog.

The gewog administrative officer, Kinley Norbu, said the gewog brought 52 items.

“The gewog notify and advise farmers to grow winter vegetables and fruits and we use the gewog Bolero to collect the products,” he said.

According to Kinley Norbu, the festival helps farmers earn some income, as most don’t know how to market their products. “Most farmers feed the vegetables to cattle.”

All the gewogs are allotted with stalls to display and sell their farm produces and also eateries. Some stalls even sell dried pork, beef, and fish and other sell cane and bamboo products.

Although no official statements were made, it was learnt that the farmers who brought the vegetables would not face the difficulty in selling the product this time, as the Nyingma Gyubum organisers agreed to buy all the unsold vegetables.

It was learnt that the dzongdag had to market the unsold produces last year and help the farmers sell it. “This year, farmers and dzongkhag officials will not face such problem,” a vendor said.

Sarpang dzongdag Karma Galay said the dzongkhag and gewog officials decided to organise the festival after finding out that most farmers leave their lands fallow and depend on imported vegetables.

“Farmers also need the market to sell their produce when we encourage them to grow it,” he said. “This festival provides the right platform.”

With people from all 12 gewogs presenting indigenous cultural programmes, including the Khengpa ‘Chilik Gragma’, Rai dance, Subba Kelang dance and Tamang Selo’, the dzongdag said the festival is also to celebrate the diversity of the people in the dzongkhag. “It is also expected to promote local products, arts and crafts.”

Prime Minister, Dr Lotay Tshering, the chief guest of the festival, said the festival is a timely initiative taken by the dzongkhag. “We need such initiatives.”

He said it’s a start of the government and local government working together and the government would support any initiatives that promote local produce. “The government would support all initiatives that would narrow the gap and agriculture activities that would result in self-sufficiency.”

The Prime Minister said that from July this year, the local government would provide block grants to gewog officials to solve the problems of farmers. “The central and local government would work together.”

He said Gelephu thromde has the scope to become a metropolitan city. “We need good plans and policies to develop the town.”

Gelephu’s Member of Parliament, the information and communication minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi, also attended the festival.

Tashi Dema | Gelephu

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