Vegetable: In what was a blessing in disguise, lack of irrigation led to villagers of Wanakha under Naja gewog in Paro switching to a more profitable practise.

Paddy gave way to vegetables and the farmers realised it was far more lucrative.

Today the gewog is the largest cabbage producer in the dzongkhag harvesting more than 1,200 metric tonnes (MT) a year. Cabbage is the fifth most harvested agriculture produce in Paro after paddy, and apples.

Of the 87 households in Wanakha, 98 percent grow cabbage.

Dago Dorji’s cabbage fields stretch for nearly three acres. He also grows potatoes.

“Initially we sold our produce in Phuentsholing but today we have a ready market in Thimphu,” Dago Dorji said.

The farmers grow cabbage two times annually. Most farmers today earn at least Nu 0.3 million (M) a year from selling cabbage.

Another farmer, Wangmo earns enough from the sale of vegetables to send her daughter to a private higher secondary school.

Wanakha Tshogpa Wangdi Gyeltshen said the farmers began growing vegetables on a large scale after 2006.

“We had serious irrigation problems so we switched to vegetable cultivation,” he said.

Other major produces of the gewog are potato, carrot, and beans.

Paro agriculture officer, Rinzin Wangchuk said the agriculture ministry supplies seeds and fertilisers to the farmers.

Increasing vegetable production is one of the key performance indicators of the dzongkhag, he said.

The country is expected to achieve at least 95 percent of self-sufficiency in vegetable production by the end of the 11th Plan. The present rate is around 80 percent.

To become self-sufficient in vegetables the country has to produce about 65,000MT by the end of the Plan.

Vegetable production increased after the country faced a Rupee shortage in 2012. Two years later, the area under vegetable cultivation was 21,574 acres and 2,901 MT of vegetables was produced.

Bhutan exported 3,710MT of vegetables in 2014, worth about Nu 87M.  This was the highest export volume since 2008.

In 2012 and 2013, the country exported 2,822MT and 2,088MT respectively.  Between 2011 and 2014, the total export volume increased by more than 300 percent.

Tshering Palden | Paro