Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Gasa dzongkhag, which has been long known for being a nomadic community has ventured into agriculture recently.

Farmers of the Khatoed and Khamoed gewogs in the dzongkhags that are mostly warmer than its two other gewogs, Laya and Lunana, started cultivating buckwheat, wheat, beans, onion, tomato, cauliflower and chilli varieties.

It is an activity under the Agriculture Economic Contingency Plan (AECP) and budgeted Nu 5.4 million (M) in this fiscal year.

Gasa Agriculture Officer Karma Wangchuk said that about 70 acres of land in the two gewogs have been developed for cultivation.

Dzongkhag officials and farmers of the two gewogs met on July 20 and 21 to better understand the challenges of the farmers.

Some of the challenges for farmers are high humidity and short cultivation season.  “Humidity is quite high, as it rains continuously. This leads to pests and disease infections. Production time is also limited,” Karma Wangchuk said.

Lack of local market is also a challenge to the farmers producing vegetables on a small scale.

Expecting an increase in production, the dzongkhag is constructing a cold storage facility in Khatoed.

Karma Wangchuk said that the surplus could be stored in the cold store and sold during the lean season which would fetch a better price.

The cold storage facility, which can store around 25 metric tonnes (MT) is expected to complete in September.

The cold storage worth Nu 2.2M was funded by the Indian government.

A packhouse is also under construction near the cold store. “Fresh produce could be brought to the packhouse, washed and stored in the cold storage,” Karma Wangchuk said.

The dzongkhag is also exploring ideas on value addition. The dzongkhag has procured milling machines and smaller machines to make biscuits out of cereals.

Karma Wangchuk said that school dropouts were also trained to make biscuits. If the business goes well, the dzongkhag is going to handover the machines to the group.

“However, people are not coming forward. We’ve again invited interested people to come forward.”

Today, as part of the AECP, the dzongkhag is providing electric fencing, improved seeds, and bio-fertilizers to farmers.