Plans to expand farm in the future

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Despite high hopes, Gesarling Women’s Orchid Farm in Dagana is struggling with a small market for ornamental plants.

The farmers are looking forward to expanding the farm and growing orchids on a commercial scale, targeting markets in other dzongkhags.

The farm could only sell a few bundles of edible orchids in the locality. “We charge Nu 100 for a bundle of orchid flower; people do not buy as they are expensive,” said a member of the group Tashi Chenzom.

Cymbidium species are currently available at the farm.

The group earned only about Nu 2,000 during the season. Although located near the Dagapela-Dalbari secondary national highway, there are not many takers.

Four varieties of edible and inedible orchids are grown in the farm.

Once the farm expands on a commercial level, women expect the business to improve. The farm is built on a private land with three shade cloth greenhouses.

“We have applied for a lease land to the gewog administration. With expansion, production could increase and we might be able to market it across the country. Orchids have high medicinal values,” said Tashi Chenzom.

The farm started with nine members. Two left the group recently.

The members were also not trained in raising the plants. They bought the seedlings from the market and harvested additional saplings from the forest. According to farmers, there is an increased demand for saplings.

“When we expand our farm, we will need expertise and further skills to tend to the plants,” said Indra Maya, adding that none of the women had prior experience in raising plant nurseries.

“We will need more workers in the future. Hopefully, we can take advantage of the farm’s location near the highway,” said Kiba.

Started with fund support of Nu 300,000 from the dzongkhag economic development office, the farm is supposed to provide an alternative source of income for people in the area.

Due to irrigation water shortage in winter and monsoon, farmers cannot grow crops and vegetables on a large scale.

Bhutan is home to about 500 species of orchids, out of which 14 are endemic to Bhutan.

In recent years, many new species have been recorded across the country. It includes the discovery of the endangered Bulbophyllum trongsaense from Trongsa in September 2019.

However, some of the wild species of native orchids are threatened with over-harvesting and exploitation since they are considered a delicacy in Bhutanese cuisine.