Agriculture has started to become a choice of employment for graduates and school dropouts

Agriculture: After migrating to Thimphu 25 years ago, Phub Tshering, 51 from Goenkha village in Phangyul, Wangdue returned to his village this year to work on his fields that had remained fallow to date.

The father of three owns about four acres of wet and dry land. The family decided to grow fruits and vegetables instead of paddy this time because of a chronic water shortage that has plagued Phangyul gewog for years. Given the market value for fruits, they have planted 130 mandarin, 10 avocado and 10 pomegranate saplings.

He said the saplings for the fruit trees were brought from the national seed centre in Bhur, Sarpang.

“We decided to return to the village after our youngest son, a recent graduate wanted to work in the farm, and also because I had wanted to continue working on our ancestral land,” Phub said. “We are also planning to form a farming group in the village.”

Phub Tshering said for their water requirement, he has connected pipes to a local stream, and is hoping to construct a small rainwater storage tank.

Wangdue’s senior agriculture officer Sonam Zangpo said with an increase in market value for vegetables and fruits produced locally, more people are opting to cultivate vegetables and fruits in large volumes.

The agriculture office provides interested farmers with seedlings and technical support for electric fencing, vegetable seedlings and fruit saplings.

“We are trying to encourage farmers to produce more agriculture and fruits locally, if possible organically, to earn a living and also reduce imports,” an official said.

The office has provided a mandarin grower in Phangyul whose orchard was destroyed in a forest fire last year, with new saplings. “We are also constructing a water harvesting tank and a reservoir tank, using affordable materials in Nabisa village in Phangyul,” Sonam Zangpo said.

He said such agriculture activities are not just to lure farmers to return to their farms but also because it’s becoming a choice of employment for graduates and school dropouts.

A village of seven households called Lyul, where houses were left empty and fields fallow for years, has now become a potential vegetable growing village. Almost all households have returned to the village and started growing vegetables and fruits in a large scale.

“To encourage people to work harder, we have provided seedlings, saplings and two sets of green house materials for Lyul villagers,” Sonam Zangpo said. “It has been more than two years and the production was impressive. Based on the farmer’s work progress, the government would continue to support them.”

In Daga gewog, a graduate has come up with a proposal to start an organic farm and the district agriculture office is currently helping him. He has put up the proposal to BOiC for funding.

Agriculture officials said they also have a proposal from Gasey-Tshowom gewog, where a nine member farmers’ group wanted to take up the drasthang’s land on lease to grow vegetables on a commercial scale.

In Nakha village, Sephu, a farmers group has started to produce potatoes on 20 acres of government lease land. The group has received support like electric fencing, potatoes seedlings and machinery.

Officials said they have received several such proposals, which could be taken as examples for school dropouts and graduates to return to the fields.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue