Watermelon will soon be an important cash crop for farmers in Phuntshopelri gewog, Samtse. A ‘Sugar Baby’ variety of water melon was introduced in the gewog in December 2019 to provide an alternative source of income and encourage farmers and youth groups. Locally raised seedlings were planted in the field of a farmer, Mon Bdr. Mongar at Chhunag covering 0.4 acres of land.
Awareness training was also provided to all 21 Chhunag households covering the water melon cultivating technology such as nursery raising, construction of low cost polytunnel, planting, mulching, irrigation and pest and disease management practices.
The program kicked off after the proposal put up by the gewog extension office was approved from the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector. Initially Nu. 32,000/-were spent for the program to cover farmers training and procure planting materials.
More than 2000 kgs of fresh water melon was harvested from about 0.30 acres of land in four months of time. All fruits were sold like hot cakes at a rate of Nu.50/kg in Gomtu. Farmers were able to generate an income of Nu. 0.5 M from their first harvest.
Besides encountering some common aphid in the field which was solved using the bio-pesticides, farmers did not face other serious issues during the process.
With a successful cultivation of water melon in the gewog, more farmers are now interested to take up the water melon farming next season. According to Pushpalal Khatiwara, Sr. Extension Officer of Phuntshopelri, more than 100 farmers have already approached the gewog RNR office. He added that they will cover larger areas of land next season and supply locally produced water melons to the market.
Water melon farming is gradually increasing across the country. Farmers in the east, Punakha and Zhemgang today grow watermelon earning a good income. They say growing watermelons is easier than the other cash crops such as chillies and potatoes since watermelons are less damaged by wild animals and major pests and diseases.
Agriculture farming is one of the main sources of income for farmers in Phuntshopelri. Paddy, maize and millet remains the main cereals for now with some lentil, vegetables and fruits. There are three vegetable groups including the one on organic turmeric and many individual farmers. Chilli and asparagus cultivation is also picking up in the gewog.
-ICTD with photos by Pushpalal Khatiwara, Phuntshopelri, Samtse
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