Agriculture: For the first time, farmers of Nakha village came together yesterday to plant potatoes on 20 acres of land at once.

The farmers were from 11 households in Nakha, Sephu gewog, which is about 98km away from Wangdue.  They belong to a farmer’s group, Samdrup Tshongley Detshen, which is the first to commercially produce potato on government lease land.

Although the villagers earn from cordyceps collection, Nakhu is among the least developed villages in Sephu with minimal land holdings.  Except for two households, who own about two acres of land, the remaining 18 own only about 30-50 decimals of land each.

The group’s chairperson Rinchen Khandu, 51, said the group was first formed in 2012 to grow food crops that would earn them a sustainable income. “Our only source of income is cordyceps collection, which is unreliable,” he said.

Rinchen Khandu said, in 2012, the group was formed, following a suggestion from the former agriculture minister.  However, the group remained non functional until this year, after it failed to avail land below their village on lease.

Last year, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji visited the village and committed to help revive the group and make it functional.  Following lyonpo’s directives, the ministry obtained the 20 acres of government land on lease this year.

District agriculture officer Sonam Zangpo said the group was given Nu 0.667M (million) to procure electric fencing material for 1.366km.  They were also given 12.9MT (metric tonnes) of seed potatoes, he said.

While the electric fencing work, including contribution of 683 timber poles, was done by the 11-member group, the technical support for e-fencing was rendered by NPPC, Semtokha and RDC, Bajo.

Sonam Zangpo said the agriculture office has also supported the group with farm machineries.

He said, as per the initial estimation based on potato seeds, the farmers could produce about 40-50MT of potatoes in the initial year.

One of the members, Mani, said the group had also put in place a proper accounting system and rules. “We’ll conduct yearly meetings to discuss on how to sustain the group,” he said.

From next year, they will also grow buckwheat on the slopes along with other crops. “After potato collection, we’re planning to sow turnip and radish to feed the cattle,” Rinchen Khandu said. “We’re also planning to produce broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers and other green vegetables.”

He said the group’s aim is to remain organic and target the tourism sector to market their produce.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Nakha