Tshering Namgyal | Mongar
Farmers in Mongar are venturing into commercial watermelon cultivation given the easy market and the minimal input it needs.
They are cultivating in bigger fields and more are beginning to grow the melon.
A youth group in Thridangbi village, Mongar last year earned about Nu 70,000 from selling watermelons. This year they have planted twice the size of the plot they used in their first season last year.
The five boys, who dropped school after class XII, produced fruits weighing between two to seven kilogrammes and sold them around Nu 60 per kg.
Their group, Zhongar Nyamrup Tshogla, has leased a fallow paddy field to plant more melons this year.
“Watermelon is everyone’s favourite and market is not at all an issue,” a member, Chimi Thinley, said.
The agriculture research development sub-centre (ARDSC), Lingmethang in collaboration with Saling gewog agriculture extension office supported the group with1,200 seedlings and plastic sheets for mulching.
They planted three varieties of watermelons with ginger and turmeric.
A farmer from Chhali has cultivated around 2,000 watermelon seedlings in his paddy field at Khalangzi, about five kilometres away from Kurizampa towards Mongar.
He started three years ago and the first harvest sold in the local markets of Gyalpoizhing, Mongar, Lingmethang and Nganglam earned him as high as Nu 135 a kilogramme.
Chali gewog extension officer, Lobzang Chophel, said around 20 households in Chali gewog were inspired to cultivate watermelon at a small scale with 20 to 30 seedlings this year.
Another farmer from Tsakaling gewog, Pema Loday has also planted 650 melons at Rewan, on the Mongar-Lhuentse highway. He started the cultivating watermelons in 2018 earning around Nu 100,000.
Last year, his production failed and he could earn only Nu 10,000. “But this year the yield would be better as the fruit grows well in alternate years.
Pema Loday said, “I sold the product from my doorstep on the highway last year and didn’t have to go anywhere.”
Langchenphu gewog, Samdrupjongkhar boasts one of the largest watermelon fields in the country with 26 acres which includes a land user certificate (LUC) youth group planted in 15 acres land.
Agriculture officials said that four gewogs of Dechenling, Dungmaed, Yurung and Chimoong in Pemagatshel have initiated growing watermelon.
Watermelon production is one of the collaborative activities of ARDC Wengkhar/ARDSC Lingmethang and dzongkhag agriculture offices. The activity is funded by CARLEP-IFAD.
Officials from Lingmethang ARDSC said there has been increasing demand for seeds and seedlings for watermelon from both the farmers’ group and individuals. The sub-centre helps the gewog agriculture extension offices and lead farmers when there is a shortage of resources.
Meanwhile, an integrated farming model of watermelon and grape is also being initiated at the ARDSC, Lingmethang.