Forest clearance hinders youth farming

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

After obtaining state land on lease in July this year, a youth group was all set to start mass vegetable farming this winter in Norbugang, Pemagatshel.

Members of the Nazhoen Sonam Sazhi Chey-Chong Tshogpa, however, could not start the work, as they need clearance from the forest officials.

Seven girls, who dropped out of school, formed the group in Tanzama village in 2017. They grew vegetables by leasing private land.

With the expiry of the three-year lease agreement on May 10 this year, the group have written to the Nganglam drungkhag administration seeking support.

The group leader, Rinzin Delker, 22, said that the former Pemagatshel dzongdag and officials from the land record office visited the site and approved about five acres of land after carrying out land survey in July.

She said the group could not start the cultivation, as they need clearance from the forest. “We applied for the clearance and forest officials visited the site and carried out an inspection.”

Rinzin Delker said officials told them they are not sure whether they would get the land because there are many trees. “The forest officials would submit an inspection report to the forest division office in Pemagatshel.”

A group member, Kunzang Cheki, said they are losing the interest in farming when the concerned authorities do not support. “Two members left the group because we often have to face such issues.” 

She said that since farming is beneficial to low-income families like them, they are all passionate, but sometimes it’s demotivating.

She said that they started the group to achieve food self-sufficiency by marketing it to other dzongkhags.

Norbugang ranger, Dorji Nidup, said the office received an application from the group on November 3 and forest officials inspected the land for the clearance. “We cannot say whether the group would get land as there is dense forest though it falls in the middle of the village.”

He said they would submit the report to the division office in Pemagatshel and the office would decide based on their reports.

Meanwhile, the group has cultivated chilli, beans, cabbage, radish and carrot in a 30 decimal wetland that belongs to one of the group members. Members claim they earned about Nu 250,000 so far from growing vegetables.

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