Phub Dem | Paro

Three years ago, Tshering Dorji from Paro Dopshari decided to venture on commercial rainbow trout farming after experts indicated it as a profitable business.

He expected to capture the market quickly in Paro since it was the first commercial trout farm in the country. But it was easier said than done.

After struggling for almost three years, his Himalayan Trout Farm could restock the fingerlings only a week ago.

One of the biggest challenges to the start of his business was restrictions from the community. Community clearance for the farm became the biggest hurdle delaying the project by three years.

The community restricted the venture as their belief did not allow them to involve in taking other’s lives and committing sin.

He said that he consulted the community several times but failed to get the clearance.

As there had been no such ventures that involve killing and harming lives in the community, Jukha tshogpa, Phub Gyeltshen, said the people were reluctant to give consent.

He said that the people believed that supporting such  ventures would contaminate and displease the local deity, which would lead to natural calamities and affect agriculture in the community.

He said that more than 20 households finally gave the clearance after a day-long consultation last year. Jukha village has 40 households.

Paro’s livestock officer Loden Jimba said that he consulted the villagers after the community rejected to provide clearance. He said that with proper sensitisation and presenting advantages of such ventures, the community finally yielded.

Besides production, trout farming could also ensure income and employment through angling tourism, restaurants and related services.

“The farm will not just harvest trouts but provide a unique tourist destination in Paro. It will serve as a model farm for aspiring entrepreneurs as well,” he said.

He said that the farm should give employment opportunities to the community and other benefits. “The farm has to be mindful not to hurt the religious sentiment and be careful while harvesting.”

Tshering Dorji leased two acres of government land in Jukha under Dop-Shari gewog for the farm which is about 10 minutes drive from the town.

He said, “After getting the clearance, every agency is willing to help.”

The officials from the National Research and Development Centre for Riverine and Lake Fishery have completed the restocking of one pond out of seven.

The farm can produce 9.3 metric tonnes of trout in a year.

The first rainbow trout from the farm would likely hit the market towards July next year.

Trout farming is an ideal option for sustainable use of water resources in mountainous regions and as an alternate source of income and employment opportunities, officials said.

As the rainbow trout is a new venture in the country, the government provides subsidies on fingerlings, pond construction, feeds, irrigation equipment, and technical support.

Tshering Dorji said that there was no issue with market since there are numerous high-end resorts in Paro.

Manager of trout breeding centre in Haa, Tenzin Tashi said that an in-country survey showed significant demand for the fish but there was a challenge in the supply chain.

“The high-end resorts in the country are importing trout from outside at a higher price.”

Seeing significant potential in trout farming for both domestic and international markets, four young entrepreneurs have shown interest.

Tshering Dorji said that if such restrictions like the delay in community clearance continue, it would be difficult for new trout farms.

Livestock production supervisor of trout breeding centre, Zangmo, said that trout farms have to seek community clearance as they have to share the essential utilities such as water source, road and other public spaces with the community.

In the meantime, a new youth group has proposed a new trout farm at Jewphu in Paro.

Loden Jimba said that the youth group was equally concerned about community clearance. “I will have to talk and sensitise people about their potential and opportunities.”