Agriculture: What was once only cattle fodder decades back is now a lucrative business for 14 villages in Shumar gewog.

The villages have been cultivating two sub tropical fodders, ruzi and molasses, since 1993. Cultivating the two fodders was initially carried out only as a seed production activity.

However, the villages today have expanded production to meet the demand for these two fodders across the country.

The villagers today produce the ruzi seed in huge quantities. Some of the 86 households that produce the fodder can provide up to 1,500kgs a year.

The farmers earn Nu 130/kg for ruzi while molasses fetches them Nu 150/kg.

Farmer Daw Jepo, 56, said the fodders help farmers to earn a side income if their other cash crops like vegetables and oranges don’t do well.

“The income has helped us to meet our daily expenses, which is why we all  work hard to continue the cultivation,” he said, adding that ruzi is easier to cultivate than molasses, which is why the farmers prefer ruzi.

Livestock production supervisor Sangay Tshering said the programme, which was carried out in collaboration with the National Centre for Animal Nutrition in Bumthang, has been successful so far and they expect no different for the future.

The dzongkhag administration monitors, supervises and provides technical backstopping.

After harvesting the fodder, the farmers sell the seeds directly to the centre which comes to the villages to procure directly.

The centre then distributes the fodder to the rest of the dzongkhags according to demand. The centre sells ruzi for Nu 145/kg and molasses for Nu 180/kg.

Ruzi is harvested in December and molasses in January.

“With this the farmers not only benefit from selling but also can feed the leftovers to their cattle, which results in good milk production and income,” Sangay Tshering said. “Although the price sometimes fluctuates the quality of the seeds have always increased every year.”

According to a report compiled by the highland livestock development project, a total of 32,569kgs of ruzi and 3,580kgs of molasses was produced from 2006 to 2016.

The farmers on average generated an annual income of Nu 91,800 to Nu 474,045 for ruzi and Nu 36,900 to Nu 73,650 for molasses.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Pemagatshel