Some 50,737 lost jobs after tourism closed last March and many handicraft vendors like Passang Tshering (in picture) went into commercial farming

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

When the government announced the first lockdown on August 11 last year, Passang Tshering’s handicraft shop near Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha had to be closed.

With the closure of business, his income ceased. Spending about two weeks at home—sleeping at most time—he decided to try farming.

And this year, for the first time since cultivation began in August last year, his harvest hit the market.

“I have a family to look after and could not sit by doing nothing,” Passang Tshering, 32, said.

He took three acres of land in Tshokona in Barp gewog, Punakha on lease.

Savings from his account and the cottage and small industries (CSI) loan of Nu 300,000 he received went for land development work, fencing the area, and to bring water to his farm.

Passang Tshering said that the agriculture officials provided seeds for cultivation and also provided technical support.

After about three months of hard work, his vegetables, mostly beans, cucumbers and tomatoes were nearing harvest.

But the swollen Punatsangchhu flooded his farm and he lost pretty much everything.

“In summer, the area gets flooded. After I lost the vegetables, it took around two months for the water to drain. And after that, I began cultivation again on the same land,” Passang Tshering said.

He went on to invest in farming with the income he received by painting a house.

“I took that as a challenge to do better in future,” Passang Tshering said.

Today, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radish and carrots from his farm have reached the market. Onion, potato and chilli plantation has begun.

Like many who are into farming, Passang Tshering said that after months of hard work the drop in vegetable price disappointed him. “The problem was that the vendors were selling the vegetables at higher rate in the market. And, we, who worked really hard in field, weren’t getting as much profit.”

With the easing of second lockdown, Passang Tshering sought buyers directly and didn’t involve vendors. “I visited hotels and sold vegetables directly.”

He has decided that even if the situation improves in future he won’t abandon farming.

Passang has made Nu 60,000 from his first vegetable harvest. “I now understand what self-sufficiency and independence really means and I can implement what our leaders preach about self-sufficiency.”