A good harvest of potatoes in Norbugang gewog inSamtse, this February, has not only benefited the farmers, but also contributed towards the goal of achieving vegetable self-sufficieny set by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF). The farmers also had a surplus of potato to sell to the neighbouring Indian market.
There are also plans to boost internal vegetables production through major services and interventions by the ministry. One provision being the distribution of potato seeds to the farmers in Norbugang gewog, which has proven to be a success.
Earlier the farmers in Samtse, especially the Norbugang communities, purchased potatoes from India. Many farmers across Bhutan export pototoes to
the neighboring state in India during the growing seasons and import potatoes during the winter.
In order to decrease the import of vegetables, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) identified places in the country with the potential of growing vegetables.
Samtse was designated as a potato growing area in 2012. Wangduephodrang, Bumthang, Chukha followed by Trashigang and Paro were also marked as major potato producing areas in the country.
As a start, about five tonnes of potato seeds were distributed to 153 households
in Norbugang gewog. It has been reported that farmers now have a sufficient supply of potatoes for self-consumption, not having to import the potatoes from across the border. Similarly last year, the National Potato Program distributed 37 tonnes of potato seeds, of which eight tonnes were solely distributed to 320 households in Norbugang gewog.
According to the Extension Agent with DoA, Kinley Wangmo, this initiative was carried out as means to intensify crop production as DoA is promoting potato cultivation in the southern dzongkhags during the off-season.
She said that with such an initiative, the farmers are now producing surplus potatoes, enough for sale to the nearby market. Further, she added that Norbugang gewog has
a rich agro-ecological zone, suitable to grow varieties of crops. The farmers are also practicing mixed cropping to ensure the fertility of soil and enhance crop yield.
The extension agent said that farmers can harvest a good yield of potatoes within three months. She said the focus is now on making potatoes available in the country during the lean season.
“The lack of land and labour has discouraged the farmers to practice mass cultivation of potato crop,” Kinley Wangmo said.
A detailed survey is scheduled to take place after the completion of the potato crop harvest this April. Such an initiative has been spearheaded by DoA to gain self- sufficiency in the domestic vegetable production. This has helped the people to consume what they produce and cut down on the import.