Agriculture: For the first time, some 23 households of Menchari village in Orong gewog were able to earn about Nu 37,000 from selling vegetables this year.

This would not have been possible if they had not formed a vegetable group a few months back.  The Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) helped them to form the group.

Menchari is a remote village under Orong chiwog and is about a two-hour walk from the gewog centre.

SJI, a civil society organisation, is a project initiated and co-founded by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. The project is designed to foster Gross National Happiness-based development with the purpose of raising living standards in the south-eastern dzongkhag of Samdrupjongkhar and beyond.

All the villagers agreed to become members of the Menchari vegetable group. They auctioned potatoes and ginger this time as a trial project.

The forming of the group has not only helped these villagers to sell vegetables that they would have gone to waste, but also helped them become aware about self-sufficiency, the group’s chairman Changlupay said.

Changlupay said earlier most of the villagers grew vegetables only for self-consumption and when they sold, they did so separately.

“But when we earned a huge amount this time and were able to save in our group’s bank account, we realised that the group is very important,” he said. “Now we’re exploring growing other vegetables like beans and cabbage to auction so that we can continue the group.”

The chairman said that earlier they were not aware that they could save money and then use it during emergencies or during annual village tsechus and other festivals.

The group has also decided to sell spinach, which is grown abundantly in the village but never sold. Half the crop is usually wasted.

Members said the group has improved their lives. They said they grow only organic vegetables to promote an organic vegetable culture, which is a main objective of SJI.

Changlupay added that with the success of the group, the members have also taken a plot of land on lease for 10 years so that the members can cultivate and grow vegetables together in large quantity.

“Our first income came as a surprise and this has motivated us to work harder to earn instead of depending on a few hundreds we get in a day from selling a few vegetables. Now we know if we expand the group we can earn more.”

Yangchen C Rinzin | Orong