Chimi Dema | Barshong

In many parts of the country, farmers today are finding it increasingly difficult to market their farm produce. But not villagers of Barshong in Tsirang.

They have a vibrant chain of ready buyers in Thimphu and Gelephu for the wide range of cash crops and livestock products they produce.

Favoured by improved farming technologies like poly-house, hybrid seeds, and roof rainwater harvesting system, among others, many farmers in Barshong produce both seasonal and offseason vegetables.

They grow 13 varieties of vegetables on a large scale including cabbage, ginger, beans,  onion, and chilli.  Farmers also grow banana, orange, mango, pear, plum, and passion fruit on their fertile fields close to the Sunkosh river besides numerous varieties of cereals including paddy.

Barshong Gup, Santa Lal Powdel said that the villagers so far could sell as much as they produced except a few times the prices were not as expected.

He said that a group of village-based entrepreneurs have been linking farmers to markets.

“On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the vendors go from house to house collecting the produce, and on Thursdays take them to Thimphu and Gelephu,” he said.

One of the vendors is 66-year-old Dhan Bdr Tamang from Gangtokha who says business has been good for the past 17 years.

He gathers produce from 12 fellow farmers in his village and sells in Thimphu’s Centenary Farmers market.

“I take about three metric tonnes of seasonal vegetables and fruits on Wednesdays around this time of the year,” Dhan Bdr Tamang said. “Sometimes, I send in the bus when the quantity is less.”

When vegetable production is at its peak, he said he used to hire a Bolero pick-up.

“I earn around Nu 25,000 a week during peak season,” he said.

Phul Maya from Barshongmaed takes seasonal fruits like bananas to Thimphu. She travels to Thimphu on Mondays and spends at least two days to sell the produce.

Pem Choki and her business partner make it to Thimphu every Thursday with a Bolero pick-up truck loaded with seasonal vegetables and fruits from the village.

The vendors said that they could fetch better prices in Thimphu than in the nearby market. “We earn enough to sustain ourselves,” Pema Choki said.

Farmers said that with such village-based vendors, they no longer have to worry about the market for their produce.

“In the past, we had to carry the produce on our backs and walk to Damphu to sell,” a farmer said. “We didn’t produce much without easy market access.”

The gewog administration has also constructed a sale and storage counter nearby the gewog centre.

The gup said that the gewog would help villagers store and sell farm produce should they find it hard to sell in the future. “We’d store the produce in the counter and seek help from gewog agriculture and livestock officials to link to the market,” the gup said.

Meanwhile, the introduction of climate-resilient agriculture in the gewog in recent years has been encouraging farmers to enhance farm production.

Sachi Dhar Mishra, a farmer in Barshong Taed, growing off-season vegetables is not a problem even when rains are erratic and environmental conditions are not favourable.

This, he said, is possible due to the new farming technologies such as poly-house and roof rainwater harvesting, introduced by rural livelihoods and climate change adaptation pilot project in the gewog in 2017.  

Sachi Dhar Mishra said that with the help of poly-house, he was able to raise quality seedlings faster.

The roof rainwater harvesting system, he said, helps him grow winter vegetables when the water from the source dries.

Besides covering expenses for necessities, he said that the income from vegetable produce helped him save money for emergency purposes.

Apart from interventions for climate-resilient agriculture, goat husbandry promoted by a pilot project is benefitting villagers in Barshong, today.

Kharkha Laya Monger, a farmer from Chunyikhang village, said that he earns about Nu 9,000 from selling chevon.

The gewog’s livestock extension officer, Ratna Bahadur Chuwan said that the pilot project has introduced about 96 beetal goats from India between 2016 and 2017.

He said that the goats were not only raised for meat production but also to crossbreed with locals.  “Farmers have also sold them in other gewogs and dzongkhags which has increased people’s income.”

He also said that many meat vendors also visit the villages looking for meat these days. “Farmers can fetch a good price.”

Currently, about 65 households in five chiwogs of Barshong raise goats.

Sachi Dhar Mishra said that it was easier to raise the new breeds than the local ones. He has four goats on his farm, today.

Farmers have also opened a joint saving account since 2016 where an individual contributes Nu 100 a month.