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Tsento’s gewog (administrative block) is located in the upper region of north Paro valley, towards the Chinese border and approximately 12 kilometres outside the town of Paro. Tsento is quite cold compared to the lower regions and most of its villagers depend on agriculture, notably poultry and dairy farming. In 2009, a group of energetic young women came up with the idea of starting a dairy cooperative and also producing organic vegetables. However, creating the necessary foundations required for viable, long-term organic vegetable production proved difficult due to the lack of knowledge, experience and equipment.
Achievements and Activities
Today in Phongdo village near Drukgyel Dzong almost all the farmers depend for their livelihoods on dairy farming and vegetable and paddy cultivation. This was made possible mainly through the knowledge, skills and practical assistance of the cooperative. One group of farmers have started their own milk-processing unit, where they produce yogurt (set, flavoured and drinking varieties), butter and cheese (ricotta as well as more local types). Other members have also started to cultivate a variety of vegetables for every season. Winter, however, poses particular challenges due to extreme cold, in particular maintaining the adequate temperatures required by vegetables to grow. Yet thanks to the cooperative and strategies it helps to develop, these farmers now use “mini greenhouses” in their kitchen gardens, made by purchasing simple and affordable raw materials.
Cooperation with Bhutan Network
The farmers produce for the local market; most of them are young and educated yet remain keen to learn more about modern organic farming. Drukgyel Farmers approached us for support in their efforts to improve their skills and hence their livelihoods. They have already hosted an exchange farmer from Austria, who shared her extensive knowledge and experience of how to make jam from peaches, apples and plums. Prior to her visit, villagers used to discard overly ripe and unripe fruits but now they try to make jam, thus avoiding buying imported products and at the same time producing potentially saleable products. Bhutan Network also supports the cooperative with materials and equipment.