Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Four years ago, Kinzang Gyelthshen joined the Land Use Certificate (LUC) programme in Lumang gewog, Trashigang along with other members. The programme was initially operated by 21 youths but today it is left with two.

Kinzang Gyelthen and his friend work on the nine-acre farm after others left the group.

In the beginning, members cultivated cabbage, cauliflower, chillies, garlic, spinach, and other organic vegetables. However, the problem has risen after members started dropping out of the group. Most of them were out-of-school youths.

Kinzang Gyelsthen said that initially the land was not fertile and there were major challenges.

“Most of the members had left thinking that the farm would run into a loss as there was no income. Moreover, it required a lot of work to make the land cultivable,” he said.

Kinzang, however, wanted to continue since farms started generating income despite the challenges.

The youth group started poultry farming to generate faster cash income as vegetable cultivation took time. The group runs a poultry farm with 500 birds. Out of which 300 lay eggs.

Meanwhile, similar LUC programmes with 18-acre fields in Tshongpoktor in Yangneer gewog were initiated the same year. About 15 youths operated the farm. However, after a year, 13 youths left the programme.

A member said they left the programme for another job. “Some leave the village with spouses after marriage and  issues with groups. It would be better to make them sign formal and strict undertakings if they want to become members,” she said.

Some of the members blamed poor leadership and lack of accountability and management by the group leader for leaving the programme.

Pema Zangmo, a mother who is a member of LUC, said, that despite many hiccups the two of them bank on poultry farming. “It took us almost a year to make the land arable, making terraces in the area and adding topsoil on the clay soil for land management,” she said.

She said that it is challenging for women to work on 18 acres of land.

“It is difficult for us to grow vegetables on land since all topsoil has gone during land development. And also solar fencing is ineffective to keep wild animals away from the garden,” she said.

The youth groups started poultry farming and also cultivated vegetables in greenhouses as they waited for produce from their fields.

Local leaders said that despite support from gewog and dzongkhag, only a few youths were active.

“Young people are usually not interested in this fieldwork, in large part due to their perception of farming being antiquated and unprofitable,” said a local leader.

He said youth who want to go into farming face other obstacles as well, including limited access to information and technology related to agriculture.