A farming group made of seven class 10 graduates in Norbugang, Pemagatshel have started cultivating paddy.

It is the women’s first attempt to grow paddy on two acres of leased government land.

Some of them had qualified for vocational training but they chose to stay back to take up farming. They claim that they want to introduce modern farming practices in the village.

Sonam Norzom, 19, claimed that she got selected for technical training institute (TTI) in Rangjung, Trashigang but she decided to take up farming. “It’s difficult to find employment even after graduating,” she said.

A group member, Sonam Pelmo, 19, from Gashari, said she completed class 10 from Nganglam Central School in 2015 and stayed home helping her parents.

She said the dzongkhag agriculture officer (DAO) suggested the group members to take up farming. “The DAO took us to Sikkim, India, for six days to show us farming practices and winter vegetables.”

Another member, Rinzin Dekar, 19, said that while they cultivate paddy, their main target is to cultivate winter vegetables, especially chillies. “We want to sell our vegetables and chillies in all 20 dzongkhags.”

She said they formed the group hoping they will learn innovative farming ideas when they work in a group.

Rinzin Dekar said the dzongkhag agriculture office donated them a mini power tiller and that they are planning to procure agricultural farming machinery and utility vehicles.

While the members say that their parents help them operate the power tillers, many in the locality do not support them, saying they will not be able to take up farming.

A member, Sonam Yuden, 21, said the members have to prove to the community that they can farm. “We face a shortage of labourers and irrigation water.”

She said the members have to pay Nu 200 for labourers and they get irrigation water only every two days.

The members say they are exploring the possibility of getting more government land on lease in future. “It would help if officials help us with electric fencing and green house to grow vegetables.”

They say that the dzongkhag agriculture sector assured them to get more land on lease and provide farming tools.

Kelzang Wangchuk |  Pemagatshel