Tshewang Dema, a young farmer can be found in her garden most of the time these days, tending to her kitchen garden whenever she finds time. She began serious gardening about two years back and she now enjoys growing vegetable and has found a new and a useful way of spending whatever little time she has in her garden.
“Growing vegetable is a part of our farming practice but I realized that, the more effort you put in it, the more you begin loving it. It simply feels good to see your effort taking tangible form slowly and you just want to keep doing more,” she said.
She said in the past, she just grew what was required for her family but now she said market is slowly opening up for the surpluses she can grow.
Like her, almost all the farmers have begun taking keen interest in growing vegetable lately. Today, virtually all the households in every village have impressive gardens growing various vegetable. It is a positive sign taking shape in the villages.
Shumar Gup Lepo said that, people began taking keen interest in growing vegetable about two years back and gardening is being taken up by most farmers with seriousness now than ever before. “In the past, most households did not even have small kitchen gardens in their homes and wondered how they met their needs. It was just a handful people who took up vegetable growing seriously and had surplus to sell in the market.”
He said many factors attributed to that situation back then. “Lack of readily available quality seeds on time was the main issue. And then there was the cheap imported vegetable available in the market which is further compounded by costlier local produce,’ he said.
And in some cases, growing vegetable successfully also became a disappointment in the end. A farmer from Tshelingore village said that, under the guidance of local agriculture sector, the entire village took up vegetable growing successfully but found no buyers leaving them disappointed in the end. He said that the farmers ended up feeding cattle with the vegetable they grew painstakingly.
“Things have changed for the better now ever since there was this import restriction and a concerted drive towards vegetable self sufficiency from the government,” said the gup. Groups have been formed in various villages that were being trained and inputs like seeds and even fertilizers supplied freely to encourage vegetable production.
And the change is beginning to take shape. The gup said that those who are in groups are bound to show result but even those not in groups are beginning to take up vegetable growing seriously. He said this is a welcome change taking place in the village that is all too visible.
Market, is what now needs to be made accessible to farmers. “Without market, everything will become futile like it did in the past. The fact that, repeated attempts on the part of dzongkhag to revive weekly market failed because of disappointments suffered by growers from the lack of buyers for what they produced primarily from the lack of consumer education must be addressed to. And a proper marketing channel for even small quantities must be made available by the government to spur on the interest being generated now,” said the gup.
An agriculture official said that, for bulk production, Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) will take care of the market. But, under individual level, bulk production of any one crop is not likely to be happening unless there is a commercial vegetable production. So an idea of bringing all farmers’ groups under an umbrella group that will facilitate coordination and collection of farm produce for marketing seems necessary in every dzongkhag to ensure the momentum is kept on.
“In one of the village under Nanong gewog, I am devising a plan whereby all the group members of a village will be made to work together in a farm and grow vegetable in bulk that will bring about visible return rather than leave production at individual level,” said Kinley Dorji, the Nanong gewog’s Agriculture Extension Officer.
Vegetable gardening is also in vogue these days among the office going people. For many, the weekend’s priorities have changed from other pursuits to backyard gardening. “I find an irresistible urge to be in my small garden whenever there is a free time. That has become my leisure pursuit and a useful one too,” said Tashi Dawa a corporate employee.
He said that, it has been over two years now that he has been self sufficient in his vegetable requirement. And he said that, it makes him feel good to be self sufficient and said that little efforts at individual level replicated at larger context can bring about national level self sufficiency.