Eastern Farmers Cashing In On Watermelon Cultivation
Farmers said that growing watermelons is easier than cultivating other cash crops like chillies and potatoes, since watermelons are less likely to be damaged by wild animals and they are also more resistant to major pests and diseases.
Farmers who grew watermelons on a large scale are finally seeing their cash income grow from the sale of the crop. They say growing watermelons is easier than cultivating other cash crops like chillies and potatoes, since watermelons are less likely to be damaged by wild animals and they are also more resistant to major pests and diseases.
Moreover, with the technical and material assistance from the Research and Development Centre (RDC), Wengkhar under Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, many eastern farmers have enrolled in the mass cultivation of watermelons, first introduced in 2014 to the Woongringmo village under Ramjar gewog in Trashiyangtse.
771 saplings were nurtured in the Research and Development Center’s Sub-station, Lingmethang under Mongar and distributed to the farmers. The RDC provided assistance from the planting of the new crop until its harvest.
The commercial production was initiated in order to take advantage of the increasing demand for home grown agricultural produce. The aim was to meet the self-sufficiency goal of producing food within the country and to curb import dependency.
Farmers warm up to the idea of watermelon cultivation
According to the research officer of the RDC Lingmethang, Sonam Tashi, the farmers were keen on taking up watermelon production while some of the farmers even intercropped watermelons with potatoes to increase crop intensity.
He said that in a market trail conducted in Doksum town, it was found that watermelon production helped farmers generate net returns of Nu 40 per kilogram where each melon weighed more than 9 kilograms.
In 2015, the agriculture ministry recorded 3 metric tons of watermelon production. Encouraged by such success, the farmers are further planning to bring more farm land under watermelon cultivation. This, they hope, will help to generate more income, besides contributing to the ministry’s goal of boosting more local produce to substitute imports.
According to the Khamdang Gup, Ugyen Wangdi, the farmers are interested to take up watermelon production once they receive the water supply from the irrigation channel as growing watermelon requires plenty of water.
“Most of our farmers are encouraged to cultivate watermelons,” Ugyen Wangdi said.
Challenges faced by Bhutanese farmers
On the marketing front, the farmers said that they face challenges in marketing the melons as the harvest of local melon coincides with the melons readily available from India.
Sonam Tashi said that since the watermelon production in Woongringmo was successful, and with the aim of encouraging more farmers to take up melon cultivation, RDC Wengkhar has plans to help market the melons produced by the farmers with assistance from the regional marketing office in Mongar.
He said that a total of six acres of farm land in the east is under watermelon cultivation and the production is expected to be higher as compared to that of last year’s.
By Tanden Zangmo (This article has been edited for the Daily Bhutan)