YK Poudel

Wobthang Organic Wonders (WOW) and other similar agricultural farms will witness improved investment in high-tech farming, support for co-operative groups and marketing in the 13th Plan.

During the third session of Meet-the-Press yesterday, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that this is to improve the agriculture sector and its role in contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The project (WOW) has not failed.  I have visited the site and I am excited to bring progress,” the prime minister said.

The WOW project in Tang, Bumthang, spanning 35 acres, is one of the largest farming projects in the country started in 2020.

Marketing strategy, Lyonchhen said, can bring improvement to the existing challenges—the government along with the Department of Agriculture Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) will support marketing niche Bhutanese products.

The prime minister said that high-value apples like Mustang apples which grow in high altitude are prioritised for the WOW project with a more scientific approach. “This investment in modern technology can increase apple production as well,” he said.

As of now, experts have studied the feasibility of growing apples in Wobthang—the same will be done in several other places.

Feasibility study for agricultural products in places like Yangbari (Mongar), Samcholing (Trongsa), and Tashichhoeling (Samtse) among others will be studied for investment in the 13th Plan, according to the prime minister.

The government also has plans up its sleeves to support youth co-operative farms with dedicated groups working full-time along with initial stipend support. “The government will support these groups with the required technology and farm machinery,” Lyonchhen said.

Those senior citizens willing to start co-operative groups to integrate with the youths and work collaboratively will also be supported.

The WOW project was initiated by the Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) together with a group of retired agricultural officials in collaboration the erstwhile Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, the dzongkhag, gewog and community people.

The farm machinery corporation assisted with machineries. Over Nu 20 million has been invested from various agencies including the construction of 10 greenhouses with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

There are no employees working in the farm as of now. The initial enthusiasm faced challenges because of  lack of market, availability and affordability of farm labour, raiding of crops by wildlife, and inability to integrate with other enterprises.

The prime minister acknowledged these challenges and promised to address these with improved marketing investment and strategies.