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Wangda inspects his kiwi trees

“I wanted to try”

A retired soldier, Wangda is experimenting growing crops that were not grown in Wangkha in the past

More than 500km away from his village of Berdungma in Thrimshing, Trashigang, Wangda is set for an agricultural journey that is not practiced in Wangkha, Chukha.

The 63-year-old former bank security guard took a risk cultivating 14 different fruits and cash crops.

Three years later, Wangda’s three acres of land descends healthily below the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway. Kiwi and cardamom are his valued possessions from the field.

Last year, Wangda harvested kiwi for the first time since he cultivated it in 2015. “I harvested 50kg,” he said.

Turkey farm

His entire kiwi harvest was sold for Nu 300 a kilogram during a Kiwi Festival that the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) organised. As BCCI had provided the first 50 kiwi saplings, the rate was a discounted one, Wangda said.

Last year, the farmer planted another 50 kiwi saplings in his farm.

“The harvest this year will not be as good,” Wangda said, adding that the wind affected his kiwi trees. “It may also be a cyclic phenomena because even the wild kiwis did not do well in this area this year.”

However, Wangda’s 100 kiwi trees could still give about 50kg in harvest, he said.

A little further down from the kiwi plants grow the lush green cardamom plants. Not many people grow cardamom in Wangkha.

“I want to see how it does,” the optimistic Wangda said, adding that he had planted 103 cardamom saplings in 2015.

For 22 years, Wangda served in the armed force. After retiring, he worked as a security guard at a bank in Gedu for 12 years.

In 2011, he bought land from his savings and earnings he made from a small furniture house he ran as a side business in Gedu.

“I entered commercial farming only after all my children completed their studies,” Wangda said. “Although I am very interested it is difficult at my age.”

He also grows potato and corn. This season, Wangda and his family sold eight bags (50kg) of potatoes.

Saving corn from monkeys is a challenge for the farming family but it has not deterred them.

Wangda has raised three dogs and each one of these canines is kept in small wooden houses at three different areas against the land slope. They ward off the monkeys most of the time, he said.

He has also planted 20 avocado trees. Chili, Japanese pears, grapes and sugarcane are other cash crops growing in his field today. He is also growing apple, lemon, persimmon, and walnut.

“I do not know if they will grow,” Wangda said. “But I wanted to try.”

Until harvesting time, the energetic farmer said that he is not sure about the returns. Only time will tell, Wangda said, adding that he would invest on those fruits and crops that earn more when the experiment is over.

Meanwhile, Wangda and family also rear livestock. The five turkeys the family raised from this year has grown to eight.

“We would have more today but two turkey chicks died,” Wangda said. “We are the first family to raise turkey in Wangkha.”

As the Wangda family also has kept about eight jersey cows, the government has provided a grass cutter on subsidy. The women in the family take care of the cows.

Wangda’s son Leki Wangchuk, a Taktse graduate has decided to stay home.

“I don’t think I will go looking for jobs,” the 2013 graduate said.

When his father is busy in the fields, Leki Wangchuk takes charge of the family’s furniture house located above the house.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

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