Farmers Working for Household Oil Self-sufficiency

Sonam Dechen

Farmers of Pangserpo village under Drujeygang Geog in Dagana (Bhutan) strongly believe in “Rang go Rangdo”  (self-sufficiency).

Farmers reported that their grandparents used to cultivate different varieties of mustard which has vanished over time. Ap Pema Dorji, a village farmer, says: “our parents never had to buy oil since we could produce our own oil.”

Most elderly farmers are disappointed to see the decline in the cultivation of mustard which is the most important oil crop of the village. The main reasons for the decrease in mustard production are easy availability of cheap oil, low yield of mustard, unavailability of good quality seeds, and absence of oil expelling facility in the village.

Farmers estimate that an average household spends around Nu.5000 per year only on the purchase of edible oil.

Pangserpo  is popular for dryland farming. Each farmer has an average landholding of less than three acres. The climate is very suitable for the cultivation of cereals, oil crops, and horticulture crops.

Mustard is mostly cultivated as a second crop after rice in the Chhuzhing (wetland), and after maize in the Kamgzhing (dryland). It is a rain-fed crop that depends entirely on seasonal rains.

To keep the farmers’ hope on oil self-sufficiency alive, the revival of mustard cultivation was initiated with 12 farmers. It started as a small initiative under the Bio-diversity Conser-vation and Utilization Asia Program (BUCAP) project.

The work was started by supplying  210 kg of mustard seed to the farmers who planted in about 11 acres of dryland.  Apart from the seeds, the researchers from the Research and Development Center in Tsirang provided the technical support on mustard cultivation.

Harvest was assessed by measuring the production in each farmer’s field. The average yield recorded was 658 kg/acre. This yield was almost double the national average yield of mustard which stands at 300 kg/acre. In the same season, 12 farmers were able to sell 920 kg of good mustard seed to the National Seed Centre (NSC) at Nu. 60 per kg which earned them Nu. 55,200.00.

The success of the project in the initial years motivated more farmers in the Geog to start mustard cultivation. With the project support, it was planned that the area for mustard cultivation would be increased in the coming season.

The Geog Agriculture sector approached the National Oilseed Program of the Department of Agriculture (DoA) to supply seeds of new and high-yielding mustard varieties. One of the biggest constraints of the farmers is the lack of oil expeller in their community. We told the communities that if their dream is to get oil expeller, they have to increase the area and production of mustard.

In the meantime, it is apparent that with this initiative of reviving mustard cultivation, Pangserpo farmers’ dream of achieving household oil self-sufficiency is not too far.

The target of achieving oil self-sufficiency will largely depend on the interest and hard work of communities. According to the estimation of the DoA, the current national oil self-sufficiency is only 11%. The Agriculture Extension of the Geog will be introducing more mustard varieties in collaboration with the National Oilseed Program of RDC Yusipang.

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