Lifestyle: It is 6am and Aum Sonam Dekar blows hard into the fire outside her camp at the base of Dorongphu village in Jigmechholing, Sarpang. She slices dry beef to prepare breakfast and packed lunch. Her two sons are still sleeping. She tells them to get up. Father is readying the horses outside.

Sonam Dekar and the family completed a months’ business at Dorongphu yesterday and they are preparing a 10-day journey back to their village in Ura, Bumthang.

“It’s and treacherous journey back to Ura via Zhemgang and Trongsa,” Sonam said.

The family owns 19 horses that are put to orange transportation from villages in Sarpang every year. Because of drastic drop is orange production this year, business wasn’t good for the family.

The family sits for breakfast at 7am. Sonam’s husband, Dorji Norbu, said that for last two decades they have relied on two-month mandarin transportation, their source of income. This year, in less than a week, all mandarin was brought to Sarpang from Chuzom road head.

While there were no oranges, the family was lucky to meet a contractor, who was in need of horses to transport cement and sand for Gongdara lhakhang construction. It’s a two-day walk from the nearest farm road point, Lhayul village.

“Rearing horse for livelihood is our family tradition. As farm roads have reached all villages, this tradition is almost dying,” he said. “Drop in orange production has hit our livelihood hard.”

Many households in Ura, he said, depend on horses for livelihood besides potato. It’s difficult to put horses to business in Ura, so many households descend towards southern dzongkhags during mandarin season. “ I might soon have to look for other source of income,” he said.  He has six school-going children.

The 19 horses were employed to carry cement and sand at Nu 300 per day.  Income from this is used to procure manure for potato field. Dorji Norbu’s family grows potato in the one-acre land in Ura.

Dorji’s youngest son, Dechen Dorji, is accompanying the family. Every evening he calls his friends in Thimphu to inquire if class X result is out. “I think I will qualify. If not, I’ve to make money to go to a private school,” he said. He has been accompanying his parents every winter to make enough money for the requirement of five siblings.

Nirmala Pokhrel