Rural-urban migration, in Bhutan, has been a longstanding issue in the development and planning discourse, one without a silver bullet solution.
While youth prefer migrating to urban areas looking for employment, there are also those choosing to return home, taking up commercial farming and becoming successful agricultural entrepreneurs.
To encourage those willing to take up farming, various interventions are required, especially in areas of farm mechanisation, land development and climate-reslient agriculture.
Choki Wangmo returned to her village in Nabchhoed village in Lingmukha, Punakha to start an agricultural venture and as she worked the land, she realised it was a diamond in the rough.
For Choki, returning to a rural life and taking up farming, after getting accustomed to an urban lifestyle, was difficult initially. The steep terrain made it challenging to use farm machinery. But, without a livelihood alternative, after she lost her job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Choki embraced conventional, labour-intensive farming.
When Nabchhoed village was identified for GCF land development intervention, Choki became one of the beneficiaries, and received machinery for terracing her acre land.
Today, Choki’s terraced farmland is stable, retains topsoil during rain and is more convenient for mechanisation.
“There has been drastic reduction in labour and increase in yield,” Choki Wangmo said. Her land is now a lush green farm, earning an average of Nu 7,000 to 8,000 a week through sale of chillies, maize, and other produce. The income has helped her meet her day-to-day expenses, and care for her elderly parents. She has also been able to put some savings aside.
She expressed gratitude to the Royal Government and the GCF-UNDP for the timely intervention that enabled her to embrace farming for livelihood.
She is planning to scale up chilli plantation, given its demand in the domestic market.
To prioritise agricultural development and to promote it as a viable employment opportunity, Choki, aspires to contest in the next local government election.