Tsirang’s priority is food sufficiency, say officials

A Gross National Happiness survey (GNHC) recently found that Tsirang, despite having one of the biggest arable land and livestock, generates only 35 percent of its income from the two sectors.

The GNHC officials, during the recent 12th Plan consultation meeting with Tsirang dzongkhag officials, pointed out that the income generated from livestock and agriculture was not up to the expectation of the dzongkhag’s capacity.

A senior planning officer, Sonam Yarphel, said, the dzongkhag needs to focus on commercialisation in the 12th Plan.

According to GNHC officials, Tsirang dzongkhag’s 35 percent income from agriculture and livestock is high compared to other dzongkhags but still not up to the expectations. For instance Gasa dzongkhag has landholding and livestock, which contributes to 63 percent of their income. “Each household in Gasa owns an average 1.98 acres land and 76.9 percent of people own livestock.”

Officials say that in Tsirang, 86.89 percent of the population owns livestock and each household own at least 4.3 acres land.

However, the GNHC finding has left many dzongkhag officials baffled.

Dzongkhag officials claim that they are confident that at least 50 percent of the income comes from livestock and agriculture.

Officials say it is evident from the brand Tsirang has earned in the market for its vegetables and livestock products especially egg.

According to figures maintained by the dzongkhag, in 2016 it produced 2394.9 metric ton (MT) milk, 80.8 MT pork, 169.9MT beef, 34.6MT chevon, 286.5MT chicken, 9.9MT fish, 1225154.4 dozen eggs and 2.5 MT​ honey.

The livestock products were generated from 11,872 cattle, one mithun, 142 buffalo, 95 equine, 1,912 pig, 231,748 poultry, 169 sheep and 7,690 goats.

In terms of agriculture products, the dzongkhag produced 5,254MT of rice, 6,964MT maize, 325MT potato, 179MT chili, 530MT cabbage, 72MT cauliflower, 318MT radish, 688MT beans, 50MT onion, 17MT dollay chili, 690MT ginger, 124MT cardamom and 6,461MT mandarin.

Going by the agriculture statistics 2015, Tsirang is 48 percent food self-sufficient.

The shortage of food is experienced during June, July and August when farmers would have finished their previous harvest and would be preparing the land for cultivation.

Assistant agriculture officer, Sonam, said the dzongkhag strives to meet the objectives of the agriculture ministry to become food self-sufficient. “Once it is achieved, it there will be surplus products to go to the market.”

He said that the dzongkhag, as of now is concentrating more on achieving food self-sufficiency. “Then only we will focus more on generating income.”

The agriculture officer explained that the dzongkhag also does not maintain data on income generation from livestock and agriculture, as they were more production oriented.  “Going by our experience in the field, over 50 percent of the income should be generated from agriculture and livestock produce,” he said. “We’re doing well in our own capacity to meet the objectives.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

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