Visually impaired farmer grows hazelnuts

Sixty-eight year old Ap Kencho sits alone on a chair by his field inTseza gewog, Dagana.

He has a way of tilling his field which strangers would find strange. He digs into the soil and feels the spade. If the soil clings to the spade, he deduces that the soil is moist otherwise if the spade comes clean, he waters his field.

This unique way to farm his land has been borne of necessity.

A keen observer will notice that Ap Kencho’s eyes have lost the rays that sight affords.

He has been visually impaired since age 35 when he suffered from red eyes and went to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital where he was recommended eye surgery.

However, tragedy struck the day he opened his eyes after the surgery: he could not see anymore. For three years after this, he went through a lot of sorrow and suffering. Then, he decided that life must go on. He had to take care of his 87-year old mother and unmarried, he had to look after himself.

In due time, Mountain Hazelnuts (MH), a Foreign Direct Investment company that promotes cultivation of hazelnuts among Bhutanese farmers came to his rescue.

Hazelnuts are low maintenance crops that are not labor-intensive and also require cheaper labor. Also saplings were provided free of cost to farmers.

Determined, Ap Kencho, took to cultivating hazelnuts for a living.

“Growing hazelnuts is ideal for me because I do not have much money, knowledge or physical ability,” he said.

Currently, he has 240 hazelnut plants.

MH has a highly trained field extension team that works closely with farmers to guide and helps their farmer partners to understand the science behind growing hazelnuts.

Ap Kencho also gets a monthly kidu of Nu 1,200. He is originally from Trashigang. Prior to being a farmer, he was a monk till the age of 25.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu