Highlanders face the brunt of pandemic

Thinley Namgay 

The highlanders of Lingzhi, Soe and Naro in Thimphu are battling the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent nationwide lockdown.

Restriction on selling their dairy products, inter-gewog movement, lack of adequate essentials and porter pony business are among the major challenges facing the people.

Karma from Naro said: “With the nationwide lockdown, selling dairy products is not possible.  We are drying the cheese but are worried about the stored butter. I have stored more than 20kg surplus butter.”

The people of Lingzhi and Soe usually trade their dairy products in Paro from where they buy essentials enough for a month.

Without electricity, refrigerating the dairy products is not an option.

Some households own more than 150 cattle and horses. Karma had to take care of 30 horses of the neighbours’ who are stranded in Paro. “Recently, I lost one horse to tiger.”

Movements between these communities are strictly monitored by the local leaders to prevent the Covid-19.

“I have friends and relatives in other gewogs but I cannot visit them. Weather in Lingzhi is foggy and there is always rain at this time. It makes us feel lonely,” said Sonam Pem from Lingzhi.

She said that her family lost cattle two months ago due to harsh weather. “Such incidences hurt our income.”

Usually, the people of these communities are busy with porter-pony business at this time of the year. The pandemic has killed the business altogether.

Karma said that people with more horses make a good income in the peak season. “Although I have only seven, I made more than Nu 100,000 last year.”

The government has opened FCB shop in Lingzhi and Soe. However, stocks have been dwindling, worrying the people.

Kelzang Dolkar from Soe said that the FCB shop has limited stock of rice, salt, cooking oil and dhal, among others.

What worries the people most is shortage of salt.

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