Thimphu The increase in number of farmers selling local vegetables along the Thimphu highway has been overwhelming for the past few years. The farmers of Wangsisina started selling their produce along the roadside since 2005 in order to sustain their livelihood and to help with their domestic arena. Initially there were only nine of them who initiated the roadside business with no proper vegetable shed. They had to carry back their items to home in the evening.
Considering their problems, the Gup Tenzin of Mewang gewog initiated building vegetables shed in 2016 for nine vendors. They pay Nu.2000 monthly rent. Expressing the excitement, one of the vendors said, “Under the soaring heat and dusty street, we struggled to maintain the freshness of the vegetables and fruits. However after the construction of the vegetable shed, we could sell the fresh items and it is easier for us as we don’t have to carry the vegetables back home.”
38 years old and a mother of three, Sangay Lhamo makes her living by vending vegetables. It has been 14 years since she started her business. “I earn around Nu.2,000 to Nu. 3,000 daily, which is sufficient to raise my children. This small shed is the only source of my income and it is much easier to sustain as compared to the field works,” she said.
One of the vendors, Zangmo from Wangsisina said that apples and choegu (dry cheese) are the most sold products besides other common items. They get more customers during summer season. The customers comprised not only of Bhutanese, but also international and regional tourists. “We are able to a make good amount, especially during Indian festivals,’’ Zangmo added. They sell fresh organic vegetables during summer and in winter most of their racks are filled with dry vegetables and cereals.
One of the vendor said, “Half of the vegetables that we produced during summer are dried to sell during the dry season. Dry red chilies fetch us good price. We get around Nu.700 per kg.” However, the task is not easy. The vendors are facing robberies frequently. They lost their goods for the fourth times to theft. One of the vendors, Tshering Dema said, “They broke into my shed and took most of the food items. We complained to the community police but they didn’t take any action.” To prevent and curb such problems, a group farmer has hired a caretaker of Wangsisina Primary School to guard their shed at night and pay him Nu.2,000 monthly. Few of the vendors also guard the shed themselves.The vendors buy apples and oranges from Paro and Tsirang. Apart from locally produced vegetables, groceries are also sold. Once of the regular consumers,
Sonam Chophel said, “The vegetables here are organic, hygienic and the items are nicely packed. Moreover the price is cheaper comparing to the market price and we get varieties of the organic vegetables.” The vendors claimed that the business has gone down with the coming of more sellers compared to the past. Yet, they still get good numbers of customer by the end of the day. “Most of the people are health conscious and prefer local vegetables over the other imported vegetables. “People buy organic vegetables for health,”
one of the consumers, Ngawang Phuntsho said. “Organic food is often viewed as healthier as, tastier than food grown with pesticides. So whenever I go to Paro, I always stop to buy fresh vegetables and fruits,” he added Currently there are about 15 vendors selling locally grown vegetables, fruits and cereals.
And only nine of the vendors have proper vegetables shed built by the government. Rest they manage on their own. Remaining ones will get new shed soon. “We have a plan to build new vegetables sheds, for the vendors in 12th Five Year Plans,” said Gup Tenzin of Mewang gewog.
By Pema Choden