Agriculture: It is about four months, 20 farmers in Bjachho gewog’s Bjachho village have planted about 30 acres of hazelnut in their fallow land. Although the villagers are unsure how the nut trees would grow, many are still interested in trying out the plant.

Some have already received the saplings. Sangay Zam, a Bjaccho villager said she has about 1,600 hazelnut saplings with her.

“I will plant these trees next year,” she said, adding that she would use about two acres of land that she owns.

Sangay Zam also said that this year’s 20 farmers are just about 30 percent of the villagers, who are interested in growing nut trees next year. There are more than 70 percent of villagers having ample of unused lands, who are interested to materialize on this exotic farming, she said.

Pangku, another villager also has about 500 saplings, which he said, would be planted next season.

Although the nut trees are growing aptly at the moment, villagers are worried about the future. However, villagers are worried more about the pricing of the nuts after the trees start yielding.

As per the agreement the villagers had signed with the Mountain Hazelnut Venture (MHV) the price has been fixed and agreed on Nu 18 per kilogram about which villagers were doubtful.

Unsure villagers said the price might lead to problems in future.

However, MHV officials clarified this was the floor price set and agreed with the Chukha people. It is also the same with other places across the country agreed since the beginning.

MHV offers USD 30 cents for one kilogram of hazelnuts.

“It is the minimum price and subject to revision in five to six years,” the MHV director Lhatu said, explaining MHV cannot set high price at the beginning and fail later. “We have to make huge investment.”

Further, Lhatu also said that MHV do not force farmers into the business. People agreed voluntarily to consider using their fallow lands only after our awareness program.

MHV gathered villagers, talked, and registered after giving every detail. With free trees and transportation, officials said there would not be any market problems in the future.

The price was also agreed between the FDI company and the agriculture ministry. MHV will invest USD 30 million for this venture.

Meanwhile, it is not Bjachho alone. People of seven gewogs of Chukha have planted over 1.3 million nut trees this year in about 260 acres of private land that were fallow.

MHV director also said only the farthest places were not covered as it was difficult to reach, without proper road connection.

The hazelnut venture would plant about 10 million hazelnut trees in five years. It started in 2011.

Environmental benefits to the country, financial earning and employment opportunities to rural folks were the project’s main objectives.

Rajesh Rai, Tshimasham