Agriculture: It was an unforgettable experience for 87-year-old Ap Dopey of Talo in Punakha, who attended the Kiwi Festival at Wangkha in Chukha yesterday.

For the first time in his life, he was able to savor a few slices of a kiwifruit.

The festival, organised by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is an initiative towards creating awareness on kiwifruit cultivation and business prospects. It was held on the roadside above the Kiwifruit demonstration farm at Wangkha, Chukha.

“I never heard of such a fruit, I have never seen it and I had never tasted one in my life,” Ap Dopey said. “It tastes good.”

Meanwhile, the two kiwifruit farms have yielded about 50kg of the fruit in about 18 months since the saplings were planted last year in March. The farms are part of a pilot project under the One District, Three Products (ODTP) project initiated by BCCI.

In 2015, the chamber had provided 200 saplings to two enthusiasts in Wangkha. The saplings were provided by ICIMOD.

Wangda, one of the two recipients, was given 50 saplings which he planted on a three-acre farmland he purchased.

Wangda, originally from Trashigang, is now engrossed in the kiwifruit farm. “Today I have 100 trees in my farm,” he said, adding that he bought another 50 trees this year at a subsidised rate from BCCI.

Given the workload, less expenses and good prices, Wangda said that the kiwifruit will benefit him more than cardamom in the future. Besides the support from BCCI, the kiwifruit grower said that he invested about Nu 60,000 on the farm.

The other kiwifruit grower is Phuntsho Wangdi, who was given 100 saplings last year.

Phuntsho Wangdi, who attended a training on kiwifruit farming in Nepal, said that Wangkha is suitable for growing kiwifruit. Wild kiwifruit is found aplenty in the area.

In terms of profit, Phuntsho Wangdi said that growers could benefit more by selling the fruit in retail. About 10 to 13 kiwifruits make 1kg, he said, adding that a kiwifruit could sell for up to Nu 50.

The festival saw more than 50 farmers from many villages in Chukha. Most of them said they want to try planting kiwifruit.

A woman from Wangkha, Makhum, said she is eager to cultivate kiwifruit. “If I am provided with saplings I will grow,” she said, adding that her daughter is planning to quit her current job and focus on planting kiwifruits.

Another person interested in growing the kiwifruit is Shankar from Darla (Tala). He said he had come to find out if Darla is suitable for growing kiwifruits.

Another attendee, Mikha Dorji, a Bjachho resident said he has planted 100 trees in Tashigatshel early this year when BCCI offered saplings at a subsidised rate. “They are growing well today,” he said. “But they have not bore fruit as it is not time yet.”

During the festival, people were also provided with slices of kiwifruit to taste. Many people travelling along the Thimphu-Phuentsholing also got to taste the Wangkha kiwifruit.

The kiwifruit plants in the two farms are into their fifth year. The saplings were brought planted when they were into their third year.

Although the pilot project was started in 2015, an additional 1,500 saplings were brought this year and distributed to more than 20 people in Chukha at a subsidised rate. Saplings have been distributed to gewogs such as Bjachho, Bongo, and Dungna in Chukha.

BCCI senior research officer Yeshi Dorji said that the chamber would help the growers in finding markets. “We can estimate the harvests and try to find buyers accordingly,” he said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing