Phub Dem | Sombaykha

In some remote villages of Gakiling and Sombaykha gewogs, the land is suitable for all kinds of crops but farmers’ focused only on cardamom and oranges.

Despite having a road that connects them to Haa, Samtse and Phuentsholing, the residents of two southern gewogs of Haa never took vegetable cultivation seriously.

They grew enough for self-consumption.

Although the places lie in a temperate zone where farms can grow vegetables all year round, farmers were discouraged from venturing into mass cultivation, due to high transportation charges and market access.

As a part of a food self-sufficiency and nutrition security project under the Economic Contingency Plan, three farmers’ groups were formed for winter vegetable production.

Eden from Rangtse said that the farmers in her village do not grow vegetables on a large scale as there were no buyers.

She said that the farmers in her village agreed to venture into mass vegetable cultivation after the government decided to support the farmers. She said that the farmers were facing a significant challenge in marketing and transporting their produce. “Although we have a road connection to Rangtse, the road is bad, and it is expensive if we have to hire a vehicle to transport the produce.”

The group focuses on growing cauliflowers, broccoli, onions, beans and tomatoes in about five acres, Eden said.

Eden with 11 others from Rangtse are transplanting seedlings. “Usually, we only depend on cardamom as a source of income.”

Like Eden, 40 other farmers from two gewogs are involved in growing mainly cauliflower and beans in more than 40 acres.

Gakiling agriculture extension officer Kinley Tshering said, “So far, farmers have been cooperative and working hard.”

He said that the pandemic had taught the remote farmers the importance of food self-sufficiency.

ECP prioritises winter vegetable production to reduce imports and meet the demand for the northern dzongkhags where winter vegetable production is not feasible.

The agriculture ECP takes into account production, road access and marketing.

Agriculture project under ECP provided Nu 6.5 million to  support the farmers with electric fencing, greenhouse, seeds, raising nursery, irrigation pipes and technical support. The project will also help farmers in marketing and transporting the produce.

According to Haa Dzongdag Kinzang Dorji, one of the important lessons learnt from the lockdown was to focus on the food supply chain.

Had the lockdown happened in winter, he said that Haa would have faced substantial vegetable shortages without a proper supply chain.

“Haa is targeting vegetable self-sufficiency all year round by tapping its altitudinal variation. The dzongkhag has the advantage of producing and supplying vegetables the whole year by rotating between upper and lower gewogs.”

Besides, to enhance marketing, the dzongkhag has built a collection and distribution point at Haa Throm and Sombaykha drungkhag.

He said that the collection points would help stabilise the supply chain. “We also built a small cold storage.”