In a rare reversal of the rural to urban migration, three educated youth return to the farm

Agriculture: Three university graduates, Phuntsho 30, Pema Namgay, 33 and Sonam Jamtsho, 29, have started a vegetable farm below the Sarpang-Gelephu highway.

They say that the number of people leaving for cities and towns is increasing year after year.  They want to use the empty spaces to grow vegetables.

Vegetable import is one of the leading causes of trade imbalance in the country.  Vegetable production in the country gradually increased after the country faced  a rupee shortage in 2012.

“Our target is to reduce vegetable import,” said Namgay Thinley, programme coordinator with the national vegetable programme workshop in Thimphu recently.

Pema Namgay, who graduated in 2008, said that the group had a plan of growing vegetable big time, and to find a market to sell the produce.

“We all grew up working in farms and we have experience. And we’re confident that we can do it,” he said.

The graduates have leased 15 acres of land from Nimalung dratshang, which is located at Bhur, 10km away from Gelephu town.  The land has been leased for five years.

They bought 6,000kg of ginger from Bangtar in Samdrupjongkhar last year and planted on 7 acres land.  They have so far spent more than Nu 600,000 on their field.

Sangay Phuntsho said that the idea of planting ginger in their farm was given by an old man from Umling in Sarpang in the ginger business.

“Summer is the only season for the ginger plantation. We have plans to market the produce both inside and outside country,” said Sangay Phuntsho. “As a educated farmers, we have lots of advantages.”

Pema Namgay said that farming was a great engagement; it’s simple and straightforward and what comes out of labour in the end is very satisfying.

“The country’s aim of enrolling every child into school has reduced the number of people in the farms,” said Pema Namgay.

“What we need today is real education, not all university graduates can find jobs in the civil service,” added Pema Namgay. “There are lucrative ways to engage oneself.”

The three graduates will focus more on growing ginger in summer.  They will also grow winter vegetables.

However, the group is facing shortage of people willing to work in the fields.

“Most of the people, who work in our field, come from across the border. It’s very difficult, of course, to get people to work in the fields,” Sangay Phuntsho said.

The group has also applied for loan from Business Opportunity and Information Centre.

“We’re hopeful. They money will be used in producing quality vegetables and to market the vegetable around the country at cheaper rates,” said the graduates.

Between 2008 and 2012, total vegetable production saw an increase of 13 percent. In 2013, the country produced 46,468MT (metric tonnes) of vegetables. Production is expected to increase by more than 2,000MT in 2014.

By Yeshey Dema, Gelephu