Agriculture: It was a proud moment for Sukh Bahadur Rai from Allay in Sampheling gewog, Chukha, when he got an opportunity to share his experience of growing quinoa with officials gathered last week.

As a successful farmer that grows quinoa in the village, he is not only going to have a bumper harvest this time but will also motivate others in the village to grow the crop.

This was revealed during the farmer’s field day held in the village on February 17.

The 48-year-old farmer said he will be harvesting the crop for the second time this year. “The first harvest was in 2015.”

He said he grew the crop on a small plot of land then and harvested 18kgs. “This year, I will harvest more than 150kg quinoa,” he said. He grew it in 40 decimals of land.

Meanwhile, quinoa is a new nutrient rich cereal introduced in 2015 in the country.

The adaptation trials were also initiated in 2015 with two varieties and six new varieties were again introduced in 2016. Compared to rice, maize, and wheat, quinoa has higher nutrients such as protein, lysine, fats, fiber, and calories.

The report with the Research and Development Centre for Organic Agriculture (RDC-OC) in Yusipang, Thimphu, mentions that the primary objective of introducing quinoa was to diversify the cropping system, adapt this versatile crop to growing environments as a climate resilient crop and to enhance the food and nutritional security of the Bhutanese people.

For the rapid promotion of this nutritious cereal, the Department of Agriculture has also accorded quinoa a commodity status at par with rice and maize.

In 2015 and 2016, over 1,000 farmers cultivated quinoa on an estimated 40 acres and cultivated in 20 dzongkhags.

Quinoa coordinator from the development centre in Yusipang, Tirtha Katwal ,said that they are expanding quinoa cultivation to 120 acres this year. “Today’s field day is to showcase a success story.”

He said the centre has plans to encourage farmers to grow on a large scale.

Centre officials also said that farmers could grow for self-consumption, as the cereal is highly nutritious and later take it as commercial farming.

Chukha dzongdag, Pemba Wangchuk, who attended the field day in Allay told farmers to try quinoa farming.

“It appears it is growing well here,” he said, adding that quinoa nutrients would be good for children’s growth.

He told farmers to grow the crop in small quantities initially and as the commercial market expands, people can grow in large quantities.

Among the villagers that gathered to listen to Sukh Bahadur Rai’s success story, there were also a few who are also growing quinoa.

Renuka Chhetri from Kothiline in Sampheling also cultivated quinoa for the second time this year.

“I harvested 30kg this year,” she said. “The harvest is good.”

Renuka Chhetri said she would grow more. “The harvest was not good in 2015, as it was a dry season that year.”

Uma Devi Chhetri and Damber Kumari Sharma are also planning to grow more this season.

People from Merak and Sakteng also grow this nutritious cereal.

Quinoa fetches Nu 100 per kg in the market.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing