Strawberries grow very well here in Tang due to the favorable weather conditions in Bumthang. Most farmers have apple orchards around their houses but strawberries are new to our locality. I felt inspired by the promising potential of strawberry cultivation and decided to start planting seedlings on my farm. I received support from both the local Agriculture and Research Development Center in Mongar as well as the Agriculture Extension Office. They provided me with 300 seedlings and the necessary technical guidance to start my strawberry farm. I sowed two varieties, ‘Sweet Charlie’ and ‘Chandler’.
Variety of products
In 2016, I participated in Bhutan Network Organic Farmer Exchange Program. Through this experience, I gained the confidence and knowledge to start my own business. In addition to my strawberry fields, I produce jams, bake cookies and cakes, and create a variety of dried treats and candies. (my food dryer was acquired through Bhutan Network) My products are sold both locally as well as in the larger cities. I also run a small restaurant out of my home where I use my farm-fresh ingredients. I am always willing to try something new and to share my knowledge with my community.
Hard work – Labor shortage
Managing a strawberry farm is very labor intensive. In rural Bhutan, limited numbers of people (and animals) make finding farm labor very difficult for us. Having access to simple machines like a hand tractor makes a huge difference even to small household farms like mine. The landscape in Tang valley is a flat floodplain along the Tang River, so the terrain itself is very suitable for the use of any kind of farm machinery.
For small-scale farming groups like me and my colleagues in Tang, our key challenge is lack of access to initial funds to purchase these machines.
This hand-tractor would reduce dependence on the already limited supply of farm labor. On my strawberry farm, I would use the hand-tractor for laying out the ‘plantation bed’, mulching, weeding and transporting farmyard manure.
Currently, it takes three people more than three weeks to plant one acre of strawberry seedlings. Additional activities such as weeding, mulching and applying the manure are similarly labor-intensive. The current difficulty I have to find enough labor means that I have to charge more for my products. This makes me less competitive when selling my organic produce at the market. Using a small hand tractor would mean that I would complete all the above tasks in less than three days and so be able to sell my strawberries at a cheaper price.
My community would also benefit. Although I would be the main beneficiary of the hand tractor, I have always worked with other farmers, local women’s groups and the Tang Central School. I would extend use of the new machinery to these locals groups at a minimum affordable price, ensuring that one hand-tractor would benefit, directly, many more households than simply mine.
Your generosity will enable Ongmo to increase her farm's production and contribute to her community. 100% of funds raised through Bhutan Network USA will go directly to Ongmo's tractor fund.
The Bhutan Network
The Bhutan Network associations in USA and Europe support small-scale farmers and agricultural cooperatives in Bhutan in their efforts to connect with colleagues abroad, share ideas and sustainably increase the productivity of their farms to contribute to food security in the Himalayan kingdom.
Please join us for the second in our series of webinars "Get to Know Bhutan"
Orchids, Ancient Oaks and Hungry Leeches- a botanical journey through Central Bhutan with Dr. Heiko Hentrich
February 27, at 10 am PST