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UN and JICA Bhutan’s joint initiative – Resilience tools for COVID-19
Farming as a passion, as a future
Tashi Tshering gets up by 7 AM every day. A business major graduate and 27 years old, he wears his rubber boots and steps outside his house to sow a new batch of vegetable seeds in his garden. After graduating in 2019, Tashi lived in Thimphu, playing football for a local club and at the same time, exploring options to work abroad in Kuwait.
“After the first positive case in Bhutan, I became less convinced about living in Thimphu or going overseas for work. I decided to go back to my village and made up my mind to become a fulltime farmer. Ever since middle school, I used to help my father on our farm at home. I was always passionate about this. I’d watch videos on Youtube about farming and learn about the lives of farmers,” says Tashi.
“In terms of family support, it was not so strong at first. While I was firm in my decision, my parents had higher hopes for me and thought that after years and years of studying, I would take up a desk job and lead an easier life without manual labour. It was understandable for them to think that way, it is the same for every parent to want their children to become someone. But I was determined, and it even affected the relationship between my father and I, we didn’t talk for a while,” says Tashi.
Tashi started by growing chilies. However, some months later heavy rains completely destroyed his first venture. This led to more concerns and doubts around Tashi’s decision. Tashi however, stood by his decision and remained resolute. He began preparing to grow winter crops and decided to grow beans. This time, his efforts bore fruit and with a harvest of 16 kgs of beans in his sack, nervously, he set out the following day to the market.
“I was nervous but happy too. It was a good harvest. I got a ride to Zhemgang town and sold my first harvest for Nu. 630. I returned home feeling reenergized and with a profound sense of satisfaction. I then started experimenting and diversifying with all kinds of vegetables. One needs a lot of patience and commitment. Being a literate farmer, I researched and accessed online resources and shared what I learned with the locals here. After I shared my experiences on national TV, I was overwhelmed by the words of support and encouragement that I received from everyone. When I visited my parents with a good variety of vegetables, I felt very proud yet humble. I felt I was giving back to them in my own way, no matter how small. It was the first time I presented them with something I grew,” says Tashi.
The Khengrig Namsum Cooperative in Zhemgang bought and arranged for Tashi’s vegetables to be sent to Thimphu in the last few months of 2020. The Dzongkhag administration provided locals with free seeds, farming tools, water pipes, a water tank and assisted in selling their vegetables. COVID-19 has provided the opportunity for farmers like Tashi to transition from subsistence to commercial farming and also to contribute to strengthening the agricultural sector to meet the overall national goals of creating gainful employment, building a sustainable food system and self-reliance. Tashi realizes that in the farming profession, there will not always be bumper crops, profits and good harvests. Rainy days will always be there. However, Tashi plans to expand his commercial garden and explore with more varieties of vegetables and fruits and to venture into mushroom farming. He maintains a daily planner and plans his activities for the next day, the night before.
“It is always advisable to diversify our crops, reduce dependency and avoid risks. It requires a lot of discipline, perseverance and a sense of entrepreneurship. The more I farm, the more I want to expand and learn. Of course, in the evenings, you are physically tired, but your mind is fresh and clear. It is very fulfilling,” says Tashi.
At the day’s end, Tashi removes his rubber boots and makes plans for the next day before sleeping. The very essence of farming is the act of sowing seeds. They hold his dreams, his future.
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