Country’s first mega greenhouse continues to make its mark

What started as a measure to boost domestic agricultural production to meet the local demands and enhance food self-sufficiency continues to prosper in Dagana. Ever since the construction of the country’s first mega greenhouse, a couple in lower Gangzur at Tsendagang Gewog in Dagana has made their mark as climate-smart agriculture farmers. In this story, our reporter Devika Pradhan finds out how they do it.

Hochu Leki is one of the four individuals to execute and construct the mega greenhouse in the district. The 40-year-old was a contractor before he fully ventured into smart agriculture with his wife.

He says that it all started when the former Gewog Agriculture Extension Officer insisted he give it a try.

The 66-decimal area that remained barren until around half a decade ago is now housing legumes ready to hit the market soon.

Hochu’s wife, 32-year-old Rinchen Dema takes pride in venturing into mega framing and toiling every day with her partner. There is no dearth of customers. There is a good demand for their produce from the boarding schools in the district.

After the completion of the construction of the mega greenhouse worth almost Nu 3 M in 2022, the couple say, it wasn’t all a smooth sail.

They planted chillies and tomatoes in the summer. However, their chillies got infested by insects.

“While working on the farm we struggle a little. However, we also obtain an outcome. We ran a trial and tried growing a variety: beans, chillies and tomatoes. Nevertheless, growing beans did better and we planted beans this year on a larger scale,” said Rinchen Dema, Hochu Leki’s wife.

Hochu Leki said, “The main objective of the mega greenhouse is to make the vegetables that are not available in winter, available. This is the sole purpose and around this time, we can also make a good income.”

Although climate-smart agriculture farming can be a lucrative business, Hochu highlighted that finding a proper market in Thimphu is still a hurdle

Hochu Leki said, “Maybe they can allocate a different spot for wholesalers. They have allocated Babesa and we reached there twice.  But there are no buyers when we get there and it is inconvenient. When we call our buyers they tell us to bring it up to CFM. The transportation cost goes up and we cannot sell.”

Therefore, he suggests moving the wholesalers to a different spot in the Changlimithang area. Hochu, like any other wholesaler, is pinning his hope on policymakers to solve this issue.

Moreover, he added that import from the Indian market also hinders the sale of their produce. He added that once he had a hard time selling beans as the market was flooded with produce from India at lower rates which discourages farmers like him.

Hochu Leki added, “We are the middlemen and even we are hesitant to buy vegetables at just Nu.20 to sell at Nu.40. People work hard and it is discouraging to earn not more than Nu.20.  This affects people’s interests. Now, there are no vegetable sellers like before. Whenever it is time for the local produce to hit the market, there are imported ones from the Indian market. We do not understand if the dealers bring it informally.”

Hochu travels to the capital every week to sell his and others’ produce from the district.  

Smart agricultural initiatives such as rain harvesting, drip irrigation, mulching plastics, exhaust fans, and foggers have been installed in his greenhouse.

Mobile-controlled irrigation with the help of an app was used for a few months. However, there was a failure and they are currently working on it.

Dagana is a pioneer in adopting new farming technology to cultivate vegetables in mass.

The initiative was part of the erstwhile government’s National Economic Contingency Plan for Agriculture to shield the country’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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