Various measures and innovative scheme are being implemented to elevate poverty in Pemagatshel, listed as the third most poverty stricken dzongkhags in Bhutan, according to the Bhutan Poverty Survey Analysis.
Among the successful initiatives in Pemagatshel is the establishment of the Dungsam Gongphel Tshogpa in Shumar gewog. The tshogpa uses the locally grown mandarin oranges to produce orange juice for sale.
Given that Pemagatshel has the favourable soil and climatic conditions, and altitudinal range ideal for growing citrus trees, around 10 farmers in 2007 had come up with the idea of producing orange pulp.
The idea was further boosted with the help of National Post Harvest Centre (NPHC) and the Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector also helped in the establishment of a small fruit processing plant called Integrated Fruit Processing Plant (IFPP).
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) realized that farmers could greatly enhance their cash income through establishment of such farm based agro processing facility.
Since then the mandarin orange growers, especially the small scale growers could directly benefit by selling their oranges to the plant rather than having to transport their produce to the market.
The Dungsam Gongphel Tsogpa’s brand of orange squash was produced, for the first time, in Pemagatshel on November 2 this year.
The tshogpa has expanded with 16 members joining the group after realizing the good income return from selling mandarin orange pulp and juice.
Meanwhile, the Shumar Gup Lepo said that such an initiative has greatly benefited the gewog, especially in increasing the income of the mandarin orange growers. He said the Dungsam Gongphel Tsogpa is thriving with the combined idea from each farmer involved.
The Shumar Gup also said that the group runs the plant despite numerous challenges, such as the lack of supply of oranges from the nearby areas at times. The farmers manage to cover the shortage by buying oranges from Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang.
“Since 2005, the production of mandarin oranges tumbled due to citrus diseases,” the Gup said.
The group runs the plant with a supply of small sized oranges that cost Nu 6 to Nu 7 for a kg supplied by the farmers. One of the orange suppliers, Tshewang Lhamo, said that most of the farmers choose to sell their produce either at the auction yards in Samdrupjongkhar or sell in bulk to orange exporters at better prices.
She said that the farmers, of late, have started to sell their oranges to the group as they have realized that selling to the group saves transportation cost and time for them.
The Dungsam Gongphel Tsogpa has further flourished with the additional assistance rendered by MoAF, through agencies, such as the NPHC, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC).
One of the significant assistance rendered by the agencies was linking the Dungsam Gongphel Tshogpa with the Bhutan Agro Industries Limited (BAIL) at Wangchuktaba, Thimphu. The agencies have also helped solve the problems encountered by the group earlier and rendered help in sustaining the plant. The tshogpa said the BAIL also functions like a savior of the plant, especially the small scale production plants. DAMC supported the farmers’ group with equipment required for orange squash production worth Nu 3 million. This is in addition to the technical assistance provided by the NPHC.