An increasing number of farmers in Tongzhang, Trashi Yangtse, are growing varieties of vegetables in groups. The group was formed in 2012, after the new agriculture program was introduced in their villages.
Currently there are four groups in four villages under Tongzhang gewog; Changmadung, Brongkashing, Gorshing and Pang. A group consist of 18-20 members lead by a chairperson each.
Earlier farmers grow vegetables only for self-consumption. “When we ask the farmers to grow vegetables on a large scale, they are hesitant because there was no market,” said Karma, Agriculture Extension Officer of Tongzhang. And also due to the poor conditions of the farm road, farmer faced transportation problems. One of the farmers Ugyen said, “Although we cultivate various cash crops, there is no market to sell. We had to transport either to Samdrup Jongkhar or Trashigang, which was very challenging because of the distance and Increasing vegetable growers in Tongzhang huge transportation charges.”
However, with the formation of new groups in the village, more farmers are taking interest and joining the groups. “In 2013 we had only 8 members but in the last two years, the number has increased to 15. It is very convenient for us to work in group, and we don’t have to hire any other workers,” said Cham, the chairperson of Pang. Changmadung has the highest members (20) among the groups.
Since then, government provided free vegetables seeds, watering equipment and other necessary materials. Chairperson, Tsezin and Dungchen coordinate the work. The group supply vegetables to nearby schools alternatively. “Things became very easy for us as we don’t have to face any trouble like before. The quantity we produce is directly proportionate to the amount we get. In a year I get around Nu. 60,000-70,000,” said Nancha
One of the members 30 years old and a mother of one, Rinzin Wangmo makes her living by selling vegetables. It has been 7 years since she joined the groups. “I earn around Nu. 40,000 to Nu.50, 000 yearly, which is sufficient to raise my family. I deposit around Nu. 2,000 monthly for my children. This is only source of my income.” Ugyen Mo from Lhawzhing said that she will join the group next year.
Vegetables supply have benefited both students and the local economy, where it enhances long-term healthy eating habits and rising income. Food doesn’t have to travel as far, as locally grown foods are organic. “The new initiative of the farmer benefited us, and we get fresh and organic vegetables at cheaper rate than the market price. We held meeting every year to fix the prices, considering their problems, the prices go up to Nu.80 per kg of chilies to the least Nu.15 per kg of coriander,” said Namgay Dorji, Mess in charge of Tongzhang Lower Secondary school.
“We stopped buying vegetables from the shops. The registered members supply whenever we need,” said Tashi Dorji, mess in charge of Kunzangling Central School.
However, there are challenges in winter. “In winter we face water problem, we have to put drums to collect water for vegetables. Although government provided us with water pipes, it remains dry most of the time,” said Kezang, 45. “We have to guard vegetables at night from the wild animals.”
To further enhance the productivity, Agricultural Extension Officer, promised to set up Green house in each groups and the work has already started in Gorshing. “By the end of 2018, every group will get a new green house,” said Karma.
By Pema Choden