Grounds being prepared to help farmers go commercial

Nima | Gelephu

The trend has reversed in Gakiling gewog, Sarpang. Farmers are now taking up vegetable farming with the production of popular cash crops like cardamom and areca nut experiencing a fall in the yield annually.

Pasang Tshering Sherpa from Tshangkha, Gakiling tried his hand on cardamom plantation for the past seven years. Production from his three acres of land started to drop every year except for the first few years. The pests have infected almost all cardamom plants this year.

The 46-year-old from Tshangkha earned over Nu 400,000 by selling cardamom in the first two years. “The prices for cardamom were good in the initial years. As the yield started to fall, the prices were also dropping,” Pasang Tshering Sherpa said.

The focus on agriculture, especially vegetables, has encouraged farmers to switch to commercial vegetable cultivation. Pasang Tshering said it was the right time to take up commercial farming because the import of vegetables is banned amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I was interested but I was not confident enough to take up commercial vegetable farming before. Today I am confident. The gewog and the government provide the required support,” said Pasang Tshering.

The 46-year-old plans to grow chilli, cauliflower, and cabbages, among others. He would also continue to grow cardamom but not like in the past.

Many from Gakiling gewog are taking up large-scale vegetable production this year. The gewog hopes to ensure a sufficient supply of vegetables this winter.

The number of farmer’s groups involved in commercial vegetable farming has increased, according to Gakiling gup, Nim Dorji.  “Vegetables were mostly cultivated for self-consumption in rural areas so far in summer. But, there was not enough production to meet the market demand,” he said.

The gup added that this trend of producing vegetables for self-consumption would change with the farmers encouraged to use the greenhouse. “Different seedlings for summer and winter are distributed,” said Nim Dorji.

Farmers are aware of the need to produce enough to replace import. Irrigation facilities to enable vegetable production at a large-scale are being planned. To reduce the dependence on manpower, which is in short supply, many in the gewog are opting to buy power tillers with the finance made available through the CSI banking scheme, according to the gup.

About 14 farmers from Gakiling had purchased power tillers with the help of the loan. “Most farmers have realised the potential of commercial farming in the wake of the pandemic. There are changes in the way farmers see vegetable farming before and after the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Nim Dorji.

Farmers are made to use cultivable land for vegetable farming and encouraged to grow cash crops such as cardamom and areca nuts on slopes and less cultivable plots.

Bhim Bdr from Gakiling had been growing only areca nuts so far. He is taking up commercial vegetable farming this year. “Areca nuts are harvested only once in a year. I could grow vegetables while I wait for the next harvest,” he said.