Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang—Garja Man Rai, a 79-year-old farmer in Woongchilo Chiwog of Tareythang Gewog, Sarpang, has begun harvesting mangoes and bananas from the million-fruit-tree plantation.

This is his second harvest since the plantation began in 2022.

Garja Man’s 50-decimal plot, along the Gelephu-Tareythang highway, has 60 mango plants, banana trees, and avocado trees that are beginning to bear fruit this season.

“Last year, only four mango plants gave fruit; 30 plants are fruiting this year,” says Garja Man. He is optimistic that all his trees will give him a good harvest next season.

Passers-by often stop to pick his mangoes, some even taking them home to make mango pickles.

“We did not sell any, but we have enough for our own consumption,” says Garja Man.

The villagers in the past had to depend on imported fruits and sometimes consumed mangoes from stray trees found outside managed orchards. They now have access to fresh fruits whenever they want.

For 26-year-old Ugyen Dorji and his siblings in Tashicholing Chiwog, the first dragon fruit harvest proved auspicious. “We sent the only fruit yielded this season to our parents in Thimphu as a gift for a more successful harvest in the future.”

Alongside his 10 dragon fruits, Ugyen Dorji has also ventured into banana and mango cultivation, which shows promising signs of new fruits just beginning to ripen.

Marketing opportunities are limited, and some farmers are sending the fruits to their relatives in Thimphu. However, their hopes for new marketing avenues remain alive due to the planned Gelephu Mindfulness City.

Farmers like 45-year-old Jigme Dorji of Yoezergang Chiwog are preparing for expanded marketing opportunities. He sold bananas worth Nu 6,000 to the former Gyalsung Food Security site in Tareythang, saying that bananas, which are high-value and tasty, cost Nu 500 per bunch.

“They come here to collect, which makes our work easier without needing to explore the market,” says Jigme Dorji, who planted about 150 trees across three phases and propagated additional banana plants from the initial 30.

Tareythang Gewog alone has planted 2,260 trees across three phases.

As the million fruit tree project continues, unlike in the past, the Sarpang Dzongkhag Agriculture sector plans to distribute the seedlings based on the altitude of the locations.

Almond, pecan nut, and walnut plants are available for higher altitudes, while mandarin, avocado, and seedless lime will be distributed to mid-altitude areas. Low-altitude areas will receive seedless lime, Irwan mango, and macadamia nuts.

Besides the million fruit trees, new cash crops include dragon fruits, coffee plants (arabica and robusta), and commercial black pepper. The agriculture sector also recently consulted with the chiwogs and gewogs regarding this initiative.

Sarpang Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer, Kinley Namgay, said that the proposal is based on the experience from the first and second phases of the plantations.

He said that adopting this approach will also create fruit trading within the communities. “There will be marketing challenges in the initial few years, but these should be addressed soon.”

About 50,000 trees of six varieties will be distributed across 12 gewogs during the ongoing third phase of plantation.