Some enterprising villagers have spotted and exploited a business opportunity
Farm Road: For more than four months now, villagers of Lauri and Serthi gewogs in Samdrupjongkhar have not travelled to Jomotsangkha (Daifam) to buy necessary household items, after a new market came up nearby.
A new farm road connecting Serthi gewog, and then Lauri, is under construction. It has reached Menjiwoong, three hours drive from Jumotsangkha town, where Serthi’s gewog centre is located.
While the farm road is still under construction, a group of about 12 villagers of Serthi, Lauri and Langchenphu gewog have been following the farm road’s first cutting, clearing young forest, government land and putting up shops. They have now reached Phoktsheri, 10 minutes before Serthi gewog centre, and have put up shops in makeshift structures.
It has become a market place for villagers of Lauri and Serthi, who otherwise walked all the way to Jomotsangkha town. All kinds of household necessities, including garments, are sold in these shops.
One of the farmers from Lauri, who had come to Phoktsheri to buy ration and other commodities, said it has become easier for them to buy things after these shops opened.
“When we get everything here at a price similar to Jomotsangkha’s, or even less sometimes, we don’t want to go to Jomotsangkha,” the 39-year-old farmer Pema Dhendup said. “These shops have come up, mainly because of farm road connectivity.”
In 1993, the present shopkeepers said, only one household stood in Phoktsheri selling grocery items in limited quantities but, after farm road connectivity started, more villagers started putting up shops, as the number of customers increased.
“Our main customers initially were road construction workers and later villagers,” one of the shopkeepers, Ngawang Choejay, 37, said. “This is the best way for us to earn some income.”
Shopkeeper Ngawang Choejay earns a minimum of Nu 7,000 a day. “The highest amount I earned here was Nu 20,000 in a day,” he said.
However, Jomotsangkha dungkhag has notified the 12 shopkeepers that they are not allowed to occupy government land for more than eight months, and that, if they did, they would be liable for lease rent.
But Serthi gup, Kencho Chhopel, said the shopkeepers have been putting up shops in a similar manner wherever a farm road reached its first cutting, and that they won’t be settling there permanently.
He also said the shopkeepers have signed an agreement with the gewog, agreeing not to stay there for more than eight months. “If they have to stay there more, we’ll talk with the dungkhag on what can be done,” he said. “Having these shops here has benefitted our villagers a lot.”
Gup Kencho Chhopel said, when the farm road’s construction goes further, then shopkeepers would also shift their location upward. “But from Phokstheri, only Lauri farmers will shift their shop upward, whereas Menjiwoong and Serthi farmers will go back to their villages.”
By Nirmala Pokhrel, Jomotsangkha