Youth in Agriculture Program (YiAP), a commercial agriculture group based in Chukha has taken over the Community Orchid Centre (COC) of Chasilakha under Bongo gewog.

The centre that was opned in August 2015 did not bear much fruit under the community and YiAP took it over early this year on lease.

The centre was initially started under the support of Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER).

Program director with UWICER, Thinley Choden, who is also the deputy forest officer based in Tala said the orchid centre was supported by GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP Bhutan. “It was implemented by the community,” she said.

The centre was initiated to conserve local orchid diversity for income generation, education, and sustainable management of community forest. However, the progress and expected output was not there, Thinley Choden said.

“It was then handed over to YiAP on lease as they were interested,” she said.

At the orchid centre, YiAP’s member Tashi Tobgay is busy these days. He is studying and recording the orchids in the centre and also collecting new species from the forest.

“We took over about two months ago,” he said, adding that it was a good opportunity to explore.

With four to five university and Class XII graduates, YiAP was formed in 2016. The group does commercial vegetable farming and aims to replicate activities in other areas and encourage more literate group to join farming in Bhutan.

Tashi Tobgay said the COC was not maintained properly and abandoned. Villagers were more inclined in other farming activities such as cardamom, he added.

YiAP wants to multiply the plants that are in the centre. For that YiAP is researching and maintaining records today.

“We are also interested in cross breeds and we are working on it,” Tashi Tobgay said.

Cymbidium and dendrobium are two species currently available at the COC. Tashi Tobgay also recently brought an orchid from the forest office that has now bloomed.

“It had not flowered that time but it is flowering now, so it is confirmed it is an orchid,” Tashi Tobgay said. “We want to propagate.”

Since UWICER also researches on orchid, its program director Thinley Choden said they would help YiAP in training and growing the orchids better under the institute’s expertise.

“Orchids have been wiped off from the forest,” she said. “There is a very high demand for the orchids in the market.”

Deputy chief dzongkhag agriculture officer, Saha Bir Rai said YiAP seeks for suggestions and advises.

“We will always support them,” he said, adding that they can also train YiAP.

Rajesh Rai | Chasilakha