Although roasting corn and selling to travellers along the Thimphu-Paro highway has turned out to be a lucrative business for 53-year-old Pem Zam from Khasakha in Maewang gewog, Thimphu, she is worried that she might have to stop the business soon.

This is because the gewog already notified farmers that the dzongkhag adminstration issued an order stating that farmers are not allowed to sell farm produce along the highway.

Pem Zam said she starts from her house at 7:30am and starts the business at 8am. “I clean the surrounding before starting to roast the corn.”

She said that she started selling the roasted corn a few years ago and since the business proved to be a lucrative one, she continued the business. Besides selling corn, she also sells fruits and vegetables.

She said she earns Nu 2,000 to 2,500 a day from selling the roasted maize but it’s difficult to earn even Nu 1,000 a day by selling the fruits and vegetables because the people travelling along the highway are looking for the roasted maize.

“I educate my daughter in a private school in Studies of Language and Culture School in Depsi with the money I earn from here,” Pem Zam said.

She said she could earn more than Nu 60,000 a month.

However, she said that to give the business opportunity to everyone, the people in the locality formed a group and do the business on a rotation basis. Each group has a maximum of nine and minimum of five farmers.

Another farmer, Passang Dem, 28, said she started farming after completing class 10.

She said maize is the main cash crop for the farmers of Khasakha village but with the gewog administration not allowing them to sell farm produces along the highway, they might have to close the business soon.

She said the gewog office has received an order from the dzongkhag administration stating that they are not allowed to sell their products along the highway and the gewog officials frequently come for inspection. “We were even told to put off the fire”.

During a meeting conducted by the gewog recently, she said that if class X and XII students want to take up agricultural farming, the government would support with a loan of Nu 500,000. “We don’t understand the gewog supporting agricultural farmings while stopping us from selling our products,” Passang Dem said.

“If we do not sell our agricultural products along the highway, we don’t have another market to sell our products because people do not buy over riped maize and vegetables get rotten,” she said.

Thimphu dzongdag, Tshewang Rinzin, said the dzongkhag had issued an order stating that it’s not allowed to make a hut using tarpaulin along the highway because it doesn’t look good for VVIPs and other important guests visiting the country.

He said if there are no problems for traffic and the surroundings kept clean, the administration would support farmers to sell their agricultural products. “We are even planning to build a shed along the highway where there is space”.

Khasakha chiwog’s tshogpa, Shelkar Choden, said the gewog office had stopped them making huts using tarpaulin along the highway as per an order but they didn’t stop them from selling their agricultural products.

She said the gewog office had told them to set fire above the road because there are high chances of accidents when vehicles stop along the road side. “We stopped them from selling when VVIP and other important guest visit the country according to an order,” she said.

Kelzang Wangchuk