Cultivating Hazelnuts in Bhutan

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All across Bhutan, thousands of farmers are partnering with Mountain Hazelnuts to cultivate millions of hazelnut trees and more farmers look set to jump in the bandwagon.

Cultivating Hazelnuts in Bhutan. (Source: http://www.mountainhazelnuts.com)

 

Sixty-eight year old Ap Kencho sits alone on a chair by his field in Tseza gewog, Dagana. He is originally from Trashigang. Prior to being a farmer, he was a monk till the age of 25.

He has a way of tilling his field which strangers would find strange. He digs into the soil and feels the spade. If the soil clings to the spade, he deduces that the soil is moist, otherwise if the spade comes clean, he waters his field. This unique way of farming his land has been borne out of necessity.

A keen observer will notice that Ap Kencho’s eyes have lost the rays that sight affords. He has been visually impaired since the age of 35. Suffering from red eyes, he went to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital where he was recommended to undergo eye surgery.

However, tragedy struck the day he opened his eyes after the surgery, he could not see anymore. For three years, he went through a lot of sorrow and suffering. Then, he decided that life must go on. He had to take care of his 87-year old mother and as he is single, he had to look after himself as well.

About the Mountain Hazelnuts (MH) company

In due time, Mountain Hazelnuts (MH), a Foreign Direct Investment company that promotes cultivation of hazelnuts among Bhutanese farmers came to his rescue.

All across Bhutan, thousands of farmers are partnering with Mountain Hazelnuts to cultivate millions of hazelnut trees and more farmers look set to jump in the bandwagon.

For farmers who show strong commitment and who have access to suitable farmland, Mountain Hazelnuts generously provided the hazelnut tree saplings for free.

In addition, technical and field support are provided consistently to farmers and there is also a guarantee to purchase the hazelnuts produced afterwards.

Mountain Hazelnut assists landowners who want to transform their fallow land into a rich orchard full of hazelnuts. Farmers can look to the company for access to fertile planting sites as the relationship is a co-operative one.

Why is Bhutan’s climate suitable for growing hazelnuts

Hazelnuts generally thrive well between an elevation of 1600 to 3000 metres. With many mid-level elevation areas found in this Himalayan Kingdom, the conditions are ripe to cultivate hazelnuts, as long as there is sufficient rainfall. It takes about half an acre of land to form the minimum land size for orchards.

Merits of cultivating hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are low maintenance crops that are not labour-intensive and they also require cheaper labour. The saplings were also provided free to farmers. Growing hazelnuts offers a stable and reliable means of generating income.

Determined, Ap Kencho took to cultivating hazelnuts for a living. Currently, he has 240 hazelnut plants. Ap Kencho also gets a monthly kidu of Nu 1,200.

“Growing hazelnuts is ideal for me because I do not have much money, knowledge or physical ability,” he said.

MH has a highly trained field extension team that works closely with farmers to guide and help their farmer partners to understand the science behind growing hazelnuts. 

  

By Chencho Dema from Thimphu (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared in Business Bhutan.

 


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