[We Care, We Share] Inspiring story: “Sabji, Sabji,” – delivering vegetables during lockdown

We Care, We Share

UN and JICA Bhutan’s joint initiative – Resilience tools for COVID-19

 “Sabji, Sabji,” – delivering vegetables during lockdown

“Everyone took vegetables for granted until the national lockdown. Until then, nobody cared to even grow a single leaf of spinach in their backyard. ‘Everything we need is readily available in vegetable markets’ is what everyone thought,” began Ugyen, continuing, “But come lockdown, first thing they found running out was the vegetables in their kitchen. Due to its short shelf life, the little they bought the earlier were exhausted too.”

Ugyen Tshering volunteered to deliver vegetables to residents of Thimphu during the national lockdown in August. He serves as a Sr. Forest Ranger at Forest Resources Management Division (FRMD), Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Thimphu.

The Government devised a plan to deliver vegetables to people’s doorsteps and the Thromde initially facilitated the delivery. However, with mounting orders, limited work-force and other logistical issues, the Thromde was overwhelmed.

“That’s when we, the foresters, were asked to step in. The call was for volunteers, since it is a manual job and involved the risk of contracting the disease. I volunteered at the first call, without the slightest hesitation or second thought. I questioned myself that if I cannot serve my King, Country and People during such a situation, when would I?” Ugyen said.

Delivering vegetables became a challenging task by the end of the first week of the lockdown though. Almost every household in Thimphu had run out of vegetables and people had become worried. “A woman in Motithang had been feeding her children rice mixed with Amul butter everyday while another man in Taba had been surviving on noodles for weeks. These were the scenarios,” shared Ugyen.

Realizing the people’s serious need, 26 individuals volunteered to deliver the vegetables that had been packed the previous night by Desuups at the Centenary Farmers Market and headed out in different directions.

Ugyen revealed that the needs of the people had become even more evident during the deliveries. He shared, “A truckload that accommodated almost several thousand packets of essential vegetable items lasted just a few minutes. People came in droves, each one wanting to grab a packet.”

Although the volunteers were provided with basic PPE for their protection, the task became more of a priority than their own safety and health, considering the hordes of people. The volunteers began working as early as 8am in the morning and continued past 9 pm in the evening regardless of the weather conditions and fatigue that ensued. Not having the opportunity to spend time with one’s own family due to COVID-19 protocols for volunteers and retreating to their offices to sleep at the end of each day was another daily sacrifice the volunteers endured.

Ugyen further shared, “We hardly had time to eat. Often, we rushed with our meals, in order to save time, so that we could deliver more vegetables. To deliver one packet more, made all the difference in such times of need.”

 “Finally, on September 6, as we withdrew with the easing of the lockdown, we were all satisfied; satisfied that we could heed the call of the people. We were even more satisfied that we could serve our King, Country and People during such testing times,” concluded Ugyen.

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