Absence of compensation and crop insurance scheme leave youth group helpless

The MoAF is working with the RICBL to introduce crop insurance scheme

One morning, an enthusiast and cheerful group of farmers wakes up only to find that all the hard work they have put in all day long for the past few weeks, striving to grow varieties of winter vegetables, has been rendered futile as continuous hailstone during the night has destroyed vast swathes of their fresh vegetables.

This is what transpired on March 13, 2021. It is also what the Founder of Go Green Organic Farm and the Chairman of Go Green Farmers Youth Group, Jewan Rai, a diploma graduate in agriculture, recalls many times these days. He is dismayed that the time for harvest was just weeks away.

“The damages caused to our crops are beyond imagination and we are stuck here staring at each other not knowing what to do next,” said Jewan Rai, who started a new commercial farm in Samtse.

He quizzed. “Who will protect those young groups taking up agriculture as a profession in such situation?”

Go Green Farmers Youth Group comprises 27 members from the two villages of Bamengang and Jarikha of Dophuchen Gewog in Samtse. The group lost around six to seven acres of land from the total 30 acres cultivated for winter vegetable production to the hailstone.

However, other cash crops like cardamom and kiwi were not much affected by the hailstone.

Similarly, Go Green Organic Farm formally registered in 2017 lost 60 to 70 decimals of the total one-and-half acre of land sown for vegetables to hailstone.

Jewan Rai said his farm lost around 1,200kgs of potato seedlings, 10kgs of garlic seedlings and a few kilograms of broccoli and cabbage.

However, cauliflower and green pea were not destroyed much because they were harvest earlier and sold in the market.

Go Green Farmers Youth Group’s member secretary, Prakash Rai said the hailstone destroyed 99% of the potatoes cultivated and around 20kgs of potato seeds were distributed to each member for this winter season.

Jewan Rai said the Go Green Farmers Youth Group had submitted the damage report to the Dophuchen and gewog officials have assured for only the seed substitute. However, there is no compensation from the government as per the agriculture ministry’s rules.

“Neither getting a compensation nor having crop insurance, we are discouraged and this time we have carried out commercial farming for the first time,” he said, adding that they also have a loan of Nu 180,000 with the National Cottage and Small Industries Development Bank Ltd.

Insurance schemes are found to be important to financially protect the farmers as more Bhutanese youths are taking up agriculture businesses such as vegetable commercial farms, dairy, poultry, fishery, etc.

Agriculture and Forests’ Minister Yeshey Penjor said the government is working on the various insurance schemes and it is taking time.

Additionally, MoAF’s Chief Agriculture Officer Namgay Thinley said there is no compensation and crop insurance scheme yet, however, if there is a crop disaster, the gewog and Dzongkhag agriculture officials verify the damages and report to the ministry and the ministry forwards the case to the Office of Gyalpoi Zimpon (His Majesty’s Secretariat) for kidu.

“I want to extend my farm to six acres in the future and show as an example to the farmers and would like to take up an insurance scheme to protect financial stability,” said Jewan Rai.

Prakash Rai said such natural disaster is a lesson for them as they have to be careful from the next season.

“There has also been mistake from our side. The vegetables that were in the poly house was not destroyed by hailstone,” he said, adding that the group was provided with eight low-cost poly houses with 80% funding support from the agriculture ministry. “However, it was not adequate for all the members.”

Both the aspiring farmers shared that getting a market is their biggest challenge as they are not able to sell their agriculture produces.

Jewan Rai said there are always surplus of vegetables during the vegetable season, which they supply to the schools in Samtse district and to the group’s outlet in Samtse town, and even use to feed their cattle.

Additionally, he said the seeds distributed by the agriculture extension office sometimes cannot germinate properly and are not distributed on time.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu