Farming: Making use of a land left fallow for decades, the Trashigang Rabdey yesterday started an integrated dairy and horticulture farming at Norzinthang.

Besides planting vegetables, maize, fruits and fodder grasses among others on  the 23-acre land belonging to the Rabdey, more than a kilometer of solar electric fencing was also installed around the land. In the following months, a dairy farm would also be opened.

According to the planning officer of Trashigang Rabdey, Lopen Karma Drupchu, the main objective of the program is to cut down costs on import of vegetables and dairy products.

Currently, the Rabdey spends about Nu 80,000 a month on vegetables and another Nu 50,000 on dairy products. There are 280 monks living in the dratshang.

“When we buy vegetables in bulk, we have to opt for the imported ones because the prices are much lower. We would be saving a lot through the farm,” Lopen Karma Drupchu said.

Besides, he said that there were chances that the land could remain fallow and unused for many years.

“For the past five months, we have been working on developing the land and tapping irrigation water,” he said. “With support from relevant agencies, we have already planted maize, fodder grasses and vegetables.”

The Renewable Natural Resources Research Development Center (RNR-RDC), Wengkhar and the dzongkhag agriculture and livestock departments are providing technical support.

Dzongkhag agriculture officer, DC Bhandari said they are corresponding with other agencies like the National Organic Program to help with organic farming and the National Soil Service Center for soil fertility programs.

“We are trying to involve different stakeholders because this would be a model project for Trashigang and the eastern region,” he said. “It can also serve as a study center for farmers where they can visit, observe and take back the ideas with them.”

The department is also providing machineries on a hiring basis. At a later stage, a proper irrigation system is also being considered.

Dzongkhag livestock officer, NS Tamang said they would help the Rabdey source about 30 cows and 30 calves to begin a dairy farm.

“We have already planted the fodder grasses and foundation works for the cow sheds are complete,” he said. “We would also provide the rabdey with simple dairy equipment like milk cans, churners and deep freezers.”

Lopen Karma Drupchu said he is also aware of the move drawing criticism from the locals.

“People would question what the rabdey would do when oxen are born. But we have an age-old practice of herding cattle,” he said. “We have enough tsamdros where about 30 cattle are grazing. Some dratshangs even own 300 cattle heads.”

If everything turns out as expected, the Rabdey also has plans to start marketing their produces in future, to make up for the cost of production and hiring of workers.

“We might market our vegetables to schools if there are surpluses and milk could be sold at the dairy processing unit at Chenari,” Lopen Karma Drupchu said. “Once the cows are here and we have enough manure, we will start growing vegetables in a large scale.”

The Trashigang dzongdag, officials from RNR-RDC, Wengkhar and dzongkhag agriculture and livestock officials attended the inauguration of the farm.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang