Choki Wangmo  

The workers with the urban agriculture initiative in Thimphu have returned to the fields to grow potatoes.

The agriculture ministry procured 3.5 metric tonnes of potato seeds from Phobjikha and Khotakha in Wangdue.

Coordinator of the initiative, BB Rai, said that about 30 percent of the 30-acre land under this initiative would grow potatoes.

Within a few days, he said that the group leaders will be trained in growing the crop. Field manure was procured from Gidakom and other villages in Thimphu.

The overall group leader, Tashi Chedup is in the field distributing seedlings and manure to different plots.

BB Rai said that the ministry was first targeting sufficient supply for workers and then sell the surplus.

The current focus is on potatoes and maize as research studies have shown the high yielding capacity of these crops within a short time which we need during the unprecedented times as the Covid-19, BB Rai said.

During past lockdowns, farmers faced difficulties working in the field and selling the perishable farm produce due to movement restrictions.

The ministry also plans to select the best seedlings and then distribute to farmers in the future.

Last year, the ministry leased land from private landowners, Zhung Dratsang, and government land to engage laid-off workers from the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Earlier, there were 26 groups, five members in each group, registered for the initiative across Thimphu. However, BB Rai said that about 25 percent of them left in the last few months citing challenges with the location of land, personal reasons, and some found employment opportunities in other sectors.

The ministry found replacements and currently has 32 groups registered with the initiative.

BB Rai said that if there is private fallow land in the urban areas, the owners can lease to the ministry for the initiative. The land will be developed for cultivation and return it when the lease expires. “The government is not taking the land from people as it is understood by the public,” he said.