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Bhutan Observer
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Hazelnut plantation for economic gains
Administrator, November 07, 2011
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Trashigang: The hazelnut plantation project, a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) venture, in eastern dzongkhags is shaping up well, according to the project’s regional coordinator, Kadola. He said the response from the farmers has been very good. If the response sustains, the venture will be one of the most viable farming businesses for the rural poor,” said the coordinator. The hazelnut trees have shown a normal and healthy growth in villages like Rangshikhar and Younphula in Trahsigang and Baytsamang in Bumdeling Gewog in Trashiyangtse. In Bumdeling gewog alone, about 22 households are engaged in hazelnut plantation. A villager in the gewog said people are optimistic after they heard from the officials from Mongar research centre that the trees will bear fruits for 50 years out of 100 years of their life expectancy. The project will benefit generations, said Gurula, a farmer who has planted hazelnut saplings on his land. He said the market is secured  as the Mountain Hazelnut Venture (MHV) is taking care of the marketing part of the project, adding that increasing number of villagers are showing interest. The gup of Bumdeling gewog, Tshering Gyeltshen, said that people are interested to take up hazelnut plantation because of its expected economic benefits. Around 164,900 hazelnut saplings have been planted on over 959 acres of land in the five eastern dzongkhags of Trashigang, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Lhuentse, and Trashiyangtse. More than a hundred households in Trashiyangtse and Trashigang have started planting the saplings. Nine gewogs in Mongar including Drametse, Narang, Sherimuhung, Tsamang, and Tsakaling have become part of the project. However, in Lhuentse only four gewogs of Dungkar, Minjay, Tsenkharla, and Menbi have taken up the hazelnut plantation. Kadola said the plantation will be carried out in Samdrup Jongkhar once the places are identified by the dzongkhag administration. He said the project is targeting remote gewogs like Gomdar and Shingkhar Lauri. So far, about 919 households in the five eastern dzongkhags have undertaken the plantation. The project officials say that about 20,000 acres of degraded, barren and agriculturally unproductive land in the country will be used for hazelnut plantation. The project aims to plant 10 million hazelnut trees in five years. And expects to get 40,000 tons of nuts a year benefitting about 10,000 rural households. Hazelnut is used for making cooking oil, chocolates, and cookies. The project is undertaken by the agriculture ministry in collaboration with Saga Private Ltd. based in the United States of America. It is a public-private partnership venture. The project officials said the hazelnut plantation in Bhutan comes at a time when the farmers are facing several challenges including land degradation, lands going fallow and increasing human-wildlife conflict. The regional coordinator of the project said most fallow and barren lands in the five eastern districts have been used for the plantation. Also, the project will focus on sustainable land management by planting saplings in the areas prone to landslides. In the west, Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Haa, and Paro dzongkhags have been identified as potential areas for the project. The project, officials say, attempts at bringing about economic and ecological gains. It has employed over 100 people so far. By Tempa Wangdi

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