Rinchen Zangmo | Tsirang

Five years ago, a university graduate chose a less trodden path and decided to be a farmer. Today, he is making a living out of ground apples.

The 30-year-old educated farmer in Dunglagang, Tsirang, said he fancied being a farmer since childhood, as his father worked in the agriculture sector and he was in touch with farming.

Amir Rai said he first tried growing ground apple three years ago and harvested about 300kgs of the produce last year.

He said growing ground apple is easy as it doesn’t require much labour and land. One plant yielded at least two kgs of ground apple.

Tsirang dzongdag, Pema, also encouraged farmers to try growing ground apple, as there is market for the produce because of its taste and medicinal value.

“It is important that people know about such climate smart crop, as it could uplift the lives of the people,” he said.

He said that ground apples help in digestion, anaemia, diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and consisted of anti-inflammatory properties, and vitamins. “Even the leaves of the produce could be used.”

According to the dzongdag, the produce could even be exported.

The dzongkhag’s agriculture officer, Dorji Gyeltshen, said ground apple is a climate-resilient crop that could even grow in gardens and has a long shelf life.

He said the crop doesn’t need heavy work and could generate easy income. “Wild animals do not damage the crop and it doesn’t require water.”

Dorji Gyeltshen said an average root of the crop has a yield of about 6.1kgs. “With enough space, a single root of the crop can yield as much as 25kgs.”

Last year, a kg of ground apple fetched between Nu 250 and Nu 200. This year, it dropped to Nu 50 a kg.

Dorji Gyeltshen said the price reduction should not discourage farmers from growing the crop, as it is easy to grow it compared to other crops.

He said the agriculture ministry on July 10 notified farmers to cultivate ground apple and it would be one of the products for one gewog one product (OGOP) from the dzongkhag.

Dunglagang’s agriculture extension officer, Naresh Bhandari, said that there were more than 40 varieties of the crop across the world. “Our variety was also sent to Bangladesh which had positive results.”

Meanwhile, Amir Rai is one of the first farmers to grow ground apple in the gewog. Besides growing ground apple, he had also tried growing kiwi, blueberries, blackberries and turmeric.