Sonam Deki & Sonam Choki
It has been more than a decade that the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) had last facelift. There was urgency for the change to convert dingy vegetable market in the capital city to a modern outlook with befitting amenities. Of many priority projects undertaken to revise Thimphu structure master plan, the Centenary Farmers Market is one of them. The works for refurbishment has begun with temporary shifting of shops at the market.
“We are revising the existing Thimphu structure plan- a master plan and have taken up different priority projects. It’s His Majesty’s wish that there are many common spaces which are of tourist attraction, when the guests arrive, it should be presentable and up to the standard. Therefore, there are many initiatives undertaken with this core objective. Thimphu Greening Initiative is one such, we have made parks, planted trees; Changzamtok Park, Thimphu Entrance gate, Simtokha roundabout, like wise we are working on such many projects,” said Tashi Penjor, Director, Urban Planning Department, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).
He further added, “Many guests visit CFM not only to meet people but to enjoy local products, to check out our local produced and the CFM is more than a decade without any renovation and it is not in a good shape to be presented to the guest. The place should be presentable and welcoming to the guests but more importantly, more than outsiders our peoples’ conveniences should be considered. It is us, Bhutanese; residents of Thimphu who will be frequenting the market therefore, when they visit CFM they should be enjoying the ambience, amenities and it should be an enjoyable shopping experience with welcoming atmosphere”.
Tashi Penjor, Director also said, “The refurbishment was carried out to improve the display of products and to create a welcoming atmosphere for both vendors and customers on the same structure”. With the refurbishment plan, maximum facility will be put in place for the convenient of the vendors, including the construction of an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facility and introduction of new amenities like sitting areas, cafes, restrooms, good drinking water, proper drainage, parking, and many others.
“Seasonal venders are unable to occupy space in CFM since they do not have constant supply of their produced so; they are presently selling their goods on the streets making the town look unpleasant. After completing entire renovation of the CFM and allotment of space to the venders, the seasonal venders and the hawkers will also be allotted space at Kaja Throm”, said Dorji Yangki, Sr. Urban Planner, MoWHS.
“When the suppliers come to the new CFM, there will be a separate unloading and docking place provisioned with weighing scale. After weighing the produce it will go to cold/dry storage facility”, said Tashi Penjor.
“On the same present permanent structure of CMF the look will be soften by using woods, bamboos and timber cladding, everything that will look natural and local with lively lightings. The aesthetic look of the market is supposed to bring behavior change in people. In general perception if the place is alluring and hygienic we are hoping that people will appreciate the gesture and may not litter the area. People don’t mind dumping trash when the environment is filthy. Solar energy generation is in plan for the lightning of the CFM but right now the team is studying on the feasibility and the work” added Dorji Yanki.
“The Venders will be allotted space as per the categories of their produce, it will be well worked out to make it convenient for the venders and handy for shopper as well as visitor with excess to shopping trolley bags “, added Dorji Yangki.
Despite resources constrain, around 95 dessups including dessup skilled workers and 37 skilled foreign workers are deployed for the CFM renovation project.
The CFM refurbishment is designed by a group of 15 architects on voluntary service to the nation and they are known as A15. They said that as they couldn’t contribute anything during the pandemic so they want to extent their service to the nation.
Dorji Yangki, Sr. urban planner, MoWHS said “In order to provide the first floor vendors with a market space while the renovation is carried out, Kaja Throm was developed within the span of 2 days. The place was a messy dumping yard before but with help and support from Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army, Dessung and Thimphu Thromde we converted it into the present look”.
As per the plan the first floor will be completed by November or December and the venders will be allotted their space. The ground floor vendors will then be replacing Kaja Throm till the renovation is completed. The renovation of CFM is expected to be completed by February next year.
Centenary Farmers Market is being directly management and monitored by the CFM management under the guideline of Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives, under Ministry of Agriculture and Forest. “With the renovation of CFM, a team of experts from the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives, along with Ministry of finance and Royal Civil Service commission is drafting the standard operating procedure and formulating all the related guidelines on management, recruitment, stall allotment and many more. The SOP will be presented for review this week”, said Tshering Wangmo, Officiating Director, Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives.
The majority of the venders were previously unaware of the remodeling. Many vendors believed that, they were sent out from the present location to renovate and convert the CFM into a shopping mall until they were relocated to Kaja Throm temporarily. Similarly, Sangay wangmo from Punakha, vender at CFM said “I heard people talking that way but I being educated I understood the reason for renovation and redevelopment. I even tried explaining to the people who were unaware of the situation however, few understood and few of our friends are still worried since most of us are single parents with 2 to 4 children and some have old presents and family to look after and running business at CFM with only source of income”. She further said, “I feel when all of us presently at the ground floor are shifted to Kaja Throm for the renovation of our floor, our sales will not be affected as we are all located together, customers who are in need of the products will manage. There are no other options than to buy from us for these particular items. I learned that the present space occupied by us will be converted entirely into an ECCD, and we will be relocated to the first floor of the main CFM building with clean and beautified stalls. The renovations are being carried out for our personal benefit, and comfort as well as our customers. So I am hoping that we could make more sales with better environment and I am incredibly happy and grateful to my King, government and all the people evolved in this work”.
For the convenience of shoppers to visit new Kaja Throm, initially the allotments were made as per the goods, so that all the items are available at the Throm. However, due to distance the costumers with heavy purchased goods have to walk, the heavy items are selling less at the Kaja Thron. Aum Kachi, 62 year-old was once located at the Kaja Throm and was brought back to cereals stall at CFM. Similarly other cereals venders at Kaja Throm were back to their old location after a month of relocation. “We are really fortunate to be ruled by the kind and wise King. Whatever the government does, it is always for the benefit of our people. I was very worried at Kaja Throm since my stall was located at far distance from the parking and my sale was less comparing to stall here. I really want to thank our Great King, who instantly after asking my problems dropped me back to my old stall. Even a day of closing our stalls will be shortfall for our family. The Kaja Throm was established so that those on the first floor would have a place to sell their goods without hampering a single day sale, while the building is being renovated” said Aum Kachi from Paro.
Vendor Karma said “His Majesty addressed with concern that there have been no changes in the way we Bhutanese live today compared to how we did ten years ago and it is very worrying that we might fail on our part as everyone involved in this project are doing their part perfectly. I am very eager to be placed in the remodeled stall with improved facility and structure, on which both venders and shoppers are going to be enjoying. The responsibility falls in the hands of venders to maintain it so that our shoppers will have excitement to visit the market as well as our guest will appreciate the environment of our country and Thimphu, it being the capital city. I will maintain my own stall after handed over to me as it’s my only source for feeding my family. If there are tight management guidelines, I believe that vendors will readily abide by the SOP framed to maintain the stalls and fulfill our Majesty’s dream”.
With this project, it is also expected to bring about behavioral as well as attitudinal changes with shoppers as well as venders, with sense of belongings and civic sense which most of the Bhutanese lack; Places that people visit are marked with footprints of litters, smears of limes on the walls and pillars and public properties sabotaged.
According to Tashi Penjor, once the renovation is completed they are hoping that starting from systematic and flaunt display of products/produced hygienically processed with inviting ambiance of the market should kicks-start the change. He said, “His Majesty thinks that our Bhutanese are not working hard; we are as same as we were ten years before and we hope that through this entire renovation process and the program, we will be able to bring some behavior changes in our venders as well as our shoppers.”
“The venders to firstly get quality produced and then display it appropriately. In other developed countries while visiting a small shop owned by farmers, though in a small quantity, they display properly and hygienically and that behavioral change we wanted to bring through this renovation”, said Tashi Penjor.
He even admitted that right now it is hard to maintain, people say look there is bitternuts lime on the wall, some tiles are broken and so on, and they will have hundreds of reasons for not being able to take care. However, he also stressed it to be a collective responsibility to take care of public properties.
“There will be separate garbage disposal, to improve and manage the garbage. The current facility is for specific capacity before it was made, and as the number increased beyond those limits, there were many disposal and drainage issues. A suitable drainage system will be installed concurrently. With that, we are hoping that people would appreciate our efforts and refrain from throwing trash out needlessly. People are slightly more reluctant to throw away waste in a clean environment, so we will work to keep it that way”, said Dorji Yangki, Sr. Urban Planner, MoWHS.
The Royal Commission for Urban Development established in 2020 is carrying out major development of landmark in Thimphu and Paro since 27% of the Bhutanese population resides in these Dzongkhags. The landmark development and the development of infrastructure in these two dzongkhags are given priority to make comfortable to live and to crest job opportunities. The first initiative under the commission was the Thimphu greening initiative focusing on realignment and landscaping, development of parks and roads, where most of people frequently use it on daily basis and the sites of tourist interest. Among many initiatives, one of such initiatives is the reconstruction of Centenary Farmer’s Market.