Villagers are dissuading those in the occupation on religious grounds 

Farming: Sukmati Rai in Marshing, Langthel gewog in Trongsa has taken up piggery to supplement her cash income of Nu 5,000 that he earns as a National Work Force (NWF) member.

With four children, all attending school, Rai’s family is facing tough financial times.

“One of them studies in a private school in Gelephu,” Sukmati Rai said, adding that the rest of her  children attends a government school.

To Sukmati Rai, becoming a pig farmer was a way to support her family.

“When it became too difficult to afford children’s school expenses we started piggery to counter the rising costs of children’s education,” she said.

Similarly, another NWF worker from Yuendrucholing, Phul Maya, also turned to piggery to meet the costs of her children’s education.

“I started piggery to earn some cash income, which could be sent to my children while in school,” Phul Maya said.

Phul Maya and Sukmati Rai are among 20-25 low income earners who contributed to the dzongkhag exceeding its pork production target stipulated in its annual performance agreement. The dzongkhag reported production of 16.2 metric tonnes (MT) of pork in just six months. Its target was just 1.5MT.

But pig farming is proving increasingly challenging in the villages where it has diminished over the years.

Dhan Kumar Gurung from Marshing who recently started rearing pigs has been getting increasing pressure from his wife’s relatives from Kela, Tangsibi to quit.

“The villagers including my wife’s relatives most of whom are either lay monks are persuading us to stop piggery saying it will accumulate negative karma,” Dhan Kumar Gurung said, adding it is also worrisome to rear pigs in a dzongkhag where piggery is banned.

Dzongkhag livestock officer, Sherab Tenzin said that no one raises pigs in upper Trongsa.

Piggery has been given up by even the Monpas of Phumzur, Jangbi and Wamling, who once lived off hunting animals.

“Only certain parts of lower Trongsa like Dranteng and Langthel raise some pigs now,” Sherab Tenzin said.

According to the Langthel extension livestock officer, Sonam Tshering, even in lower Trongsa only a few villages like Koshala and Pangzur maintain pig farms. Villages like Bayzam and Ngormay completely gave up piggery before 2011.

“And the dzongkhag’s effort to revive piggery in 2011 failed miserably amidst religious sentiments,” Sonam Tshering said.

Trying to initiate and convince people to take up is a losing battle. Of late even some of the existing piggery farm owners like the NWF workers are planning to quit because of societal pressure.

“They would have quit piggery years ago but I have held them back,” Sonam Tshering said, adding these farms would also be gone in few years time.

“And sometimes the community objects to the the pig farm’s location because of its proximity to a lhakhang,” Sonam Tshering said.

“Rearing pigs is banned in dzongkhag as well as Tangsibi gewog now,” Dhan Kumar Gurung said.

In Keila none of the villagers are taking up piggery. Its tshogpa, Tashi Gyalpo said that the village stopped rearing pigs after a renowned Rinpoche banned it a few years back.

“And I might encourage people to rather take up agriculture and livestock but piggery never,” Tashi Gyalpo said.

The villagers are also becoming more aggressive towards the pig farm owners with some reporting incidents of villagers causing nuisance.

“Though no physical attacks were made few villagers often are mischievous and discriminating towards us,” Sukmati Rai said, adding she worries sometimes the villagers would turn against her to stop the pig farms.

Some families like Dhan Kumar Gurung’s is also getting increasing pressure from relatives.

“It scares me that if my wife’s relatives’ demur could actually cause some friction in our relation,” Dhan Kumar Gurung said.

Availability of piglets, feed and lack of proper space to open semi-commercial farms are some constraints for pig farms.

“My husband wants to quit from the lack of space and shortage of feed,” Phul Maya said.

Sukmati Rai cannot increase the number of pigs in her piggery despite her plans.

“The dzongkhag officials gives us only one even if we wanted more saying it is difficult to get piglets in large numbers since villages have no applicants,” Sukmati Rai said, adding she would take up semi-commercial farming if the dzongkhag helps her out with supply of piglets.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trongsa