Tsirang Dzong

Tsirang Dzongkhag farmers see the pandemic as a blessing in disguise for them

Endowed with favorable climatic conditions and fertile land, Tsirang dzongkhag in central Bhutan is considered one of the most productive and agriculturally-rich districts in the country.

In the wake of COVID-19, the farmers are working hard in their fields and are earning well, as the dzongkhags sees increase in production of vegetables.

According to the Tsirang Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer, during the pandemic the farmers worked hard and their production is high. He said that there was no market issue and farmers could earn well during the first lockdown and the marketing is also going smoothly in the second lock down.

“We have been sending two to three boleros of vegetables to Thimphu. And in the second lockdown we have been sending vegetables daily to different places,” he said.

He said that the dzongkhag is also focusing on winter vegetables production and they have been working on growing chillies, onion and tomato in bulk.

The dzongkhag has seen an increase in the production in terms of vegetable production. Compare to the previous year the dzongkhag is targeting to produce 3,800 Metric Tonnes of vegetable this ear.

“Last year we produced around 3,300 MT of vegetables and this year the production is high, so we are expecting more production this year,” he said.

He added that the dzongkhag is working hard and currently supplying and mobilizing vegetables from different gewogs.

 Agriculture Officer of Semjong, Namgay said that import of vegetable was controlled and during the first lockdown all the movement was restricted so the farmers could work on vegetable production and the production was high.

“Uncertainty over the Covid-19 lockdown has affected vegetable supply, causing prices to shoot up in the city, so the farmers here showed interest to grow more vegetables. The farmers had the highest production this year because of the COVID-19,” he said, adding that the farmers didn’t get the expected prices though the prices of vegetable were shooting up.

He added that the when there is a complete lockdown the farmers are not able to sell their produces since the production is very high and there is no movement.

He also added that currently the gewog is focusing on winter vegetable production. The gewog is focusing on growing chilli, onion and tomato and also broccoli, carrot and cabbage.

 Mendrelgang Gup Yeshi said that regarding the vegetable production the dzongkhag has supported the gewog and has also ordered the gewog to produce enough vegetables.

“The seeds, greenhouses are also provided to the farmers for the production. In terms of vegetables, the gewog didn’t face any problem during the lockdown instead we could supply the vegetables where it was needed,” he said.

He added that farmers were also motivated to work since the country was facing vegetable shortages especially during the time of lockdown. The farmers are earning well during this pandemic.

Singye Dorji, 68, from Dangreygang under Semjong gewog says that different varieties of vegetable and fruits are grown in their villages, apart from also cultivating different varieties of rice and grains for which the dzongkhag is famed for.

“Tsirang is one of the dzongkhag where different kinds of vegetables are grown and some doesn’t even need to wait for a favorable season as it can be grown in every season like spinach and spring onions among others. The most famed agriculture produce is paddy and is supplied to all parts of the country,” he said.

He said that the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for the farmers since the farmers could work hard and produce more agriculture products for the country.

“We cannot serve like the front liners but however, in terms of agriculture production we could help the government by contributing and working hard in the respective fields,” he said.

Dechen from Dangreygang said that the COVID-19 has made the farmers put all their effort since the import of vegetables was restricted.

“We could make good money since we worked hard and produced more than any other year. We are still working on the production of the vegetables since the pandemic is going to continue for a long time,” she said.

She also added that it is a good opportunity for those youths who have lost their job to the pandemic to come back to their villages and focus on agriculture marketing during this situation.

“Those who lost their job due to the pandemic should come to the village and see how the farmers are generating income rather than depending on Kidu and staying home. If you can work hard, you can even earn more than a person doing desk jobs in the capital,” she said.

According to Dechen, it is the responsibility of every individual to not only produce food for people around the country, but also to teach and inform others about the agriculture industry and how it benefits individuals as a community during such pandemic.

Karma Tenzin, 30, “From COVID-19, everyone must have learnt that agriculture is the biggest single industry and it helps contribute to the national gross domestic product (GDP). Working in the field is more fun than just roaming the streets and searching for a job which is becoming a futile effort every passing year. I prefer working in the field as I can help my parents and grow vegetables for sale in the market while also earning good income from it. And also in time of such pandemic we are able to help the government by contributing our vegetables, “he said.

Dorji, 56, says that for long, the agricultural sector has been neglected and now in such times the youth are taking up the farming as a part of their career.

“As the pandemic affected every sector in the country, those who lost their job started taking up commercial farming and it is good to see our youth coming up and working in the field,” she said.

Dawa, 32, from Sergithang also added that he did not face problem in selling his vegetables due to the pandemic, as it sold like hot cakes.

“Your farmland is as valuable as gold. Everyone must have realized by now that the farmers are working hard in the field to produce for the people. And the pandemic has also made a lot of the people in the city come up with kitchen gardens around their surroundings,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest has provided support through cost sharing mechanisms such as greenhouses, seeds and infrastructure for livestock among others.

The second pilot project on improving and expanding water supply was started in Dangreygang by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest in partnership with the De-suung National Service.

As an integrated scheme, the project will help to alleviate current drinking water shortage as well as provide water for irrigation. The scheme will supply drinking water to 69 households, benefiting about 300 people, and provide water for dry land irrigation to benefit about 70 acres in Dangreygang Chiwog.

The livelihoods of people in Tsirang dzongkhag are mostly dependent on subsistence farming and livestock rearing. Dependent on the monsoon, paddy cultivation is also practiced in abundance.  Majority of the people living here are from Lhotsamph community with few re-settlers from different parts of Bhutan.

The main source of income for the people of Tsirang are from citrus, poultry products, livestock farms, and more recently organic-farming has become very popular with suitable climate and through the initiatives of RNR sectors. Among other products mandarin, egg, butter, cheese, ginger, beef, chicken, local rice, banana and pears are most popular and bountifully produced in the region.

This story was made possible due to support from the Department of Information and Media, MoIC.

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