Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Two years ago, 42-year-old Mani Ram Gurung used his land in Balana village, Goenshari gewog in Punakha for paddy cultivation. Apart from a tiny kitchen garden, his land mostly remained dry.

Today, vegetable gardens, greenhouse, and animal sheds surround his house.

According to Mani Ram Gurung, he started taking interest in vegetable cultivation after the village got connected with a farm road.

The 9km farm road connects the village to the Punakha-Gasa highway.

“We cultivated enough paddy for consumption and that was all we did. But then, soon we saw the feasibility of vegetable cultivation,” Mani Ram Gurung said.

With vegetable cultivation, Mani Ram Gurung’s income has increased to around Nu 70,000 a year from around Nu 25,000 he earned from carpentry.

Mani Ram Gurung said that the vegetables were sold to vendors who visit the village during peak season. “We sell the vegetables at a less cost. I do plan to buy a vehicle to take vegetables to the market in Thimphu and Punakha.”

Balana village is among the many in Goenshari gewog where popularity in vegetable cultivation is growing.

Cultivated vegetable land increased from 65 acres in 2018 to around 75 acres in 2019. Similarly, vegetable production increased from around 80MT to over 90MT in 2019.

According to agriculture extension officer, Tshewang Lhamo, Goenshari farmers used to depend on non-wood food products (NWFP).

She added that today farmers have taken interest in vegetable cultivation during NWFP off-season. Cold crops such as cauliflower, asparagus and broccoli are grown widely in the gewog.

Of about 131 households in the gewog, around 90 percent of households are engaged in vegetable cultivation with increased accessibility to roads, Tshewang Lhamo said.

The agriculture sector is also distributing seedlings and has built around 24 greenhouses in the gewog.

“We have also built 24 km electric fencing, which has helped around 50 households this year,” Tshewang Lhamo said.

The gewog has plans to promote temperate fruit cultivation and build a processing unit for tree tomatoes, which is abundant in the gewog.