Sherab Lhamo

Around 80 villagers of Darla gewog, Chukha, are happy that a variety of fruit trees they planted as part of a project targeting human-wildlife conflict areas are beginning to bear fruit.

The initiative, led by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Forestry and Training (UWIFT), supplied seedlings to 21 households in Yagang village and 59 households in Gengu village.

The project manager from UWIFT, Karma said that compared to other areas, Gengu and Yagang are less developed and face challenges like a lack of road connectivity. Identified as human-wildlife conflict hotspots by the Gedu forest division, the project began in 2020 with a three-year plan.

Coffee plants

A tea plant

A resident of Yagang village, Prem Bdr Chhetri said that his previous struggle relied solely on maize to sustain his family. He mentioned the necessity of taking a loan to support his daughter’s education. “I feel like planting these seedlings will give us an opportunity to earn more,” the 46-year-old farmer said.

Through training sessions, he learned essential skills such as planting coffee in shaded areas, nurturing various seedlings, assessing their quality, and marketing techniques. To protect them against wildlife, he wants to use the income generated to fence his area.

The villages altogether received 397 walnut seedlings, 272 cane seedlings, and 1,160 avocado seedlings.

Ganesh Bdr Bhujal, 41, from Gengu village said that fruits like avocados and walnuts were previously unavailable in their village that relied primarily on maize for sustenance.

The villagers opted to plant different fruit and nut seedlings after consultations with the UWIFT team.

“It has been a year since we planted the fruits and nuts, and they are growing well,” said Ganesh.

The UWIFT team conducted a month-long training from December 2022 to January 2023. By June 2023, they established a wildlife-friendly farm using an agroforestry model in the human-wildlife conflict hotspot.

The project began with a brief assessment of the villages’ challenges, followed by the distribution of seedlings and training for villagers. Findings were shared with 79 beneficiaries from both villages to empower informed decision-making based on project impacts and insights.

The villages plan to sell their coffee to Bhutan Mountain Coffee in Paro, which has signed an agreement with them.

Karma said, “After the tea plants are fully grown, we plan to give farmers training on how to prepare green tea.”

The project was funded by the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation.