The face of rural Bhutan is fast changing with many youth opting to go back to their villages to take up farming
l Tenzin Lhaden, Thimphu
The trend of rural-urban migration, which of late has become an issue of growing concern, is gradually taking a u-turn with more youth opting to return to their villages after completion of their studies.
While some have opted to take up farming full time others have ventured into more lucrative business like, poultry, piggery, dairy farming and mass plantation of cash crops like cardamom and mandarin.
Sangay from Goen Shari in Punakha is one of those young and prospering rural entrepreneurs who resigned from his job in the civil service and moved back to his village to start commercial production of vegetables. That was eight years ago.
Today his efforts are bearing fruit as he is one of those budding entrepreneurs who has also helped other farmer to form cooperatives, like the Happy Valley youth group and the Happy Green cooperatives.
Sangay says that he resigned from his coveted job in the civil service to realize his dream of becoming an independent famer.
“I always wanted to become a farmer and be independent in my life. I have also brought in many changes in my community by means of sharing new ideas and techniques and I am glad that I made the right decision,” Sangay says beaming with hope and enthusiasm.
Sangay adds that he has been practicing and experimenting new farming techniques by using power tillers, fertilizers and high-yielding variety seeds, and that his yield has always improved over the years. He even pioneered the happy youth and happy green cooperatives which today meets the supplies for their happy chips production, a potato chip manufacturing company.
But success didn’t come easy for him. During the initial years of his farming venture, Sanagy says that he faced a lot of hardships, like shortage of farm labours, lack of quality seeds, unforgiving terrain and, at times, bad climatic conditions.
Nonetheless, Sangay’s sheer determination and faith to succeed kept the flames inside him still burning. The problem of lack of adequate water and irrigation facilities also didn’t deter him from realizing his dreams—to make farming a lucrative business.
“Today, I solely focus my energy on the market demand and the demand for agricultural goods and produces are always on the rise. There will never be a dearth for marketing our produces but what matters is how much are we willing to work,” Sangay says, adding that with the timely help and intervention by the government farming techniques have greatly improved over the years.
However, he says that he is still confused as to why today’s youth struggle in the urban centres hunting for jobs, which is growing scarce by the day, while leaving their fertile farms fallow back at their villages.
“There is a huge scope for growth and business in this sector if one is willing to work hard. The purpose of education is not only to get jobs but instill ideas in us so that we can better our lives,” he adds.
Like Sangay, 25-year-old Samdrup Yeshi, a recent graduate, also decided to go back to his village in Lhuntse to try his hands in the farming sector after hearing Sangay’s success stories from the social media.
Samdrup says that Thimphu is already crowded with thousands of unemployed youth who are trying every means to sustain themselves. “I find it a futile dream to hunt for a job in the urban centres while there is a sea of opportunity back in our village farmlands.”
The introduction of farm roads, improved HYV seeds and farm machineries has also made farming a less strenuous and economically viable option. The introduction for financial help, in the form of loans, has also helped youth and farmers to venture into new business ideas.
Samdrup says that apart from being able to help his ageing parents in their farms, he is also able to experiment new farming techniques like starting commercial vegetable production which has no dearth for markets in the country.
Similarly, Yangchen Dema, 25, from Saling gewog in Monggar said that though farming is tougher compared to desk jobs, the returns are good if one is willing to work hard.
“I am glad that I decided to stay back in my village and help my parents with their chores and farm works. There is a lot of scope for growth in the agriculture business. I will urge our youths to go back to their villages and start farming rather than idling around the cities hunting for jobs which are hard to come by,” Yangchen adds.