Making do in Sangbaykha dungkhag

Conditions on this sandy outpost are pretty grim for administrative staff

Lifestyle: The nearest villages are located about three to four hours walk away and it takes four days to reach Haa, the dzongkhag town on foot.

Administering this jurisdiction is Sangbaykha dungkhag (sub-district), which lies a few feet above the bank of Amochu (river).  Some 50 years ago, land erosion, according to locals, had resulted in a flat area, where the dungkhag office today stands.

Since the area is centrally located, the dungkhag administration was set up there.

The dungkhag’s 17 staff makes up the settlement.  But with sandy land and no settlements nearby, the dungkhag officials have little choice than to sustain on potatoes and dry vegetables.

Administration assistant, Tshering Lhamo, said that they usually depended on potato and lentils for food, since they were not perishable.

Except for seasonal vegetables like spinach, she said, it was difficult to get other vegetables from the villagers because most grew only for themselves.

Tshering and her friends tried collecting soil from nearby areas to grow vegetables, but their efforts went in vain when wild animals attacked their gardens. “We hardly get green vegetables,” she said.

A clerk, Sonam Dorji, who has been working in the dungkhag for the last six years, said villagers from Dorithasa, Yangtsena and Khameyna villages sometimes come to sell spinach and beans to their area. “I also tried to grow some vegetables, but the sandy area isn’t good to cultivate anything,” he said.

It takes at least three hours to walk uphill to these villages from the dungkhag.

At this time of the year, except for fern and bamboo shoot (patsa), which grow in the wild, dried vegetables make up most of their meals.

However, with a small shop opened near the dungkhag recently, the staff no more have to travel to Haa to purchase basic necessities like milk powder, salt, sugar and oil.

And until the national secondary highway connects the dungkhag, its residents will have to continue depending on dried vegetables and potatoes.

By Tashi Tenzin, Sangbaykha

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