It is too early to say whether the Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) in the central district of Zhemgang has become a successful project but in the past two years of operations, it has not defaulted on loans and profits are being ploughed back into the project, according to the cooperative’s chairperson.
“We started paying the loan installments, Nu 55,000 a month, from the seven month of operations and we have been paying regularly for one and a half years now,” said chairperson Thinley Wangdi. “After paying staff salaries, we are investing our profit to extend the business.” The project has three more years to clear its loan of Nu 3.2 million taken from the Business Opportunity information Centre (BOiC) now the Rural Development Enterprise Cooperation.
The cooperative was formed by nine women and seven men in August 2014 with its main products being fresh vegetables, bamboo shoot pickle, orange pulp, potato, banana crisps, dried chilli and mushroom. It began operations in February 2015 after a BOiC loan was approved.
The cooperative works with farmers across the dzongkhag to grow the required market oriented vegetables, fruits and harvest non-wood forest products. They also provide farmers with seeds, fertilizer and machinery.
The immediate markets for fresh vegetables are schools, hospitals and towns in the district. The processed and manufactured products will be marketed through Bhutan Agro Industries Limited (BAIL) and Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL).
Thinley Wangdi said the cooperative started with 16 members and a year later they appointed 40 chiwog (village clusters) coordinators, youths who had left school, to coordinate work in chiwogs on commercial agriculture farming. The 16 members are paid based on company profit whereas the chiwog coordinators are paid according to their work in chiwogs, the chairperson said.
The cooperative has started supplying vegetables to four schools in Zhemgang. They also use the existing Integrated Food Processing Plant (IFPP) facilities under the National Post Harvest Center at Brumbi for collecting, grading, packing, processing and marketing the products from 40 Chiwogs of the eight gewogs of Zhemgang Dzongkhag.
Nangla Gup Rinchen Wangdi said that KNC is of much help to the dzongkhag. “It is helpful in getting school dropouts work and in helping farmers who have interest to work but are stuck without fund,” said Rinchen Wangdi.
He also said they have started with banana plantation and bamboo shoot production with fund support from KNC which has engaged many school dropouts and farmers in every chiwog.