Farming: Located just below the snowline, layaps, (people of Laya) growing or selling vegetables sounds odd. But the newfound wealth is thriving in the gewog situated 3,800 metres above the sea level.

The credit goes to a couple from Pazhi village, Kinley Dorji and his wife Thinley Dema, who now have become the local hero when it comes to vegetable production.

Since they returned from an agriculture study tour two years ago, the couple had been producing fresh vegetables and are much sought after by tourists’ cooks, civil servants in the gewog and even neighbours, some walking more than an hour.

A Laya lower secondary school teacher Rinchen Wangdi said, “Thanks to the couple we get to eat green vegetables otherwise it’s always potato.”

From broccoli to carrot to potato the price is fixed at Nu 50 a kilogramme. Following price hike of commodities, the price was raised from Nu 35 a kilo last year. The couple earns a minimum of Nu 50,000 from the sales of vegetables. It even beat their income from cordyceps this year.

A few metres away from the Laya lower secondary school, near a two storeyed traditional house, the couple grows organic vegetables in a field half the size of a volleyball pitch. The nursery is in a dilapidated plastic house, which was given new for free.

“We used to grow only potatoes and used to think how a cauliflower is grown,” Thinley Dema, 63, a mother of four, said.

“But then we wanted to try out other vegetables and with the help of agriculture extension officer it worked. We produce much more than what we require so we sell them.”

The gewog provides seeds for free.

The couple were also amongst the first two households in the gewog to grow fodder grass many years ago. The seeds are given to other villagers too but lack of care does not beget in proper harvest.

The villagers grow wheat and barley besides a little bit of vegetables. Agriculture has changed in the gewog. “People now feed wheat and barley to yaks and horses, they have plenty of rice now,” a gewog official said. “It is no more their staple.”

Interests in growing vegetables have grown evident from the demand for poly house.

District Agriculture Officer, Tshering N Penjor, said that the demand for poly house has grown after Thinley Dema’s success story in growing vegetables. His office would distribute one each in the gewog’s five chiwogs.

“We have applied for another five medium poly houses to the ministry’s horticulture division to be distributed for free in the gewog,” the agriculture officer said.

He said the initiative is aimed at self-sufficiency and nutritional security of the highlanders.  “They can grow most of the vegetables except for chilli and tomato,” Tshering N Penjor said.

He said in future, the government would provide plastics on cost sharing basis with the government paying 60 percent of the price, which will be reduced to 40 percent.

Gasa dzongdag, Dorji Dhradhul, said the district has proposed to the government for an additional livestock extension officer and to retain the agriculture official in the gewog.

“It is important that there is a livestock official in the gewog at all times because,” he said.

Besides cordyceps, livestock is the main source of income for the Laya and Lunana communities. The gewog has almost half the number of households in the dzongkhag.

Tshering Palden, Laya