I got my dairy farming business idea on a study tour while I was pursuing my final year science degree at Sherubtse College in 2008. During the tour, along with my life science class mates, I got opportunity to visit various RNR research centers and farms in Bumthang and Mongar. I visited dairy, sheep, and piggery farms; and cheese processing unit besides vegetable and horticulture farms.
During the study tour, I used to joke with my friends that I wanted to become an educated dairy farmer!
Post study tour, I had to file a report for which I looked up for information on farming system in Bhutan. To my surprise, and which was a discovery in itself, I found that farming back then in 1960s and 1970s was a main source of livelihood for a majority of Bhutanese.
Due to accelerated and planned socio-economic development, Bhutanese have started growing more dependency on imported food, especially from India. Moreover, the growing literate population and literates opting for better employment opportunities, and their siblings, parents, and relatives following them or depending on them, have contributed towards a lesser interest in farming.
Most of us think a farming is a difficult work and, therefore, hardly anyone thinks of taking up a framing as a profession. Since we don’t consider a farming has a prospect of sustainable and lucrative commercial opportunity, farming sector has lagged behind.
Besides numerous reasons I came across such as a geographical landscape challenges, a lack of or inadequate irrigation or water supply system, a lack of user friendly technology, a broken or inefficient supply chain system and many more; the biggest challenge in the Bhutanese farming system was the lack of interest within ourselves and a stigma attached to the literate taking up a menial job (the blue-colour job mal-syndrome!).
But an interesting fact is that Bhutan is still an agrarian society with more than 60 percent population living in rural communities.
With my aforementioned findings, I compiled and filed in my study report. And those findings really questioned and challenged me to beget troubles for me from thereafter.
My interest in farming was further increased after winning the university level essay writing competition on “Agriculture Revolution In Bhutan Using ICT”. My essay gave me the opportunity to attend the International Telecommunication Youth Forum in 2008 at Bangkok, Thailand as an undergrad student.
But then, again, I did not become a dairy farmer after my graduation. Rather I was confused for I talked about my idea setting up of dairy farming back in my village in Dagana to my mother, siblings, and relatives.
Besides usual scorn and scolding, I was told, “It’s your life and you know the best what to do about it. We did it whatever we could to see you through graduation. Now don’t bother us with your silly and stupid idea of dairy farming. How can you think of becoming a farmer when your friends are working in offices? People will laugh at you. If you have wanted to become a farmer, then it would have been better you have not studied. It might have given us a less trouble.”
So on and so forth, I had to literally listen. And then I conformed to the idea of preparing for the civil service exam to secure a job in the civil service. In a quest to prepare for the exam, I started working as a print reporter in one private newspaper.
In the process of writing stories, I came across Loden Foundation and learnt that the foundation supports in setting up business by providing an interest free loan.
Without informing my elder siblings and mother, I developed a dairy project proposal and submitted to the Foundation. Later I told my elder brother about it and then I even told him that I would not be appearing for the civil service exam because I was leaving to Denmark for a training in the middle of the graduate orientation program. Thereafter, the relationship with my brother was strained for I’ve failed him twice. The first was I could not qualify for the medicine studies in 12th standard and the second was not consenting to become a civil servant or work as an office employee.
While I was in the training, I got an email from the Loden Foundation’s office about getting my dairy project shortlisted and schedule to sit for the interview which would decide the final prospect of securing the support. Unfortunately, I had to be physically present for the interview, nonetheless the office informed me I could reapply for the support next year.
After coming back to Bhutan, I worked with my Danish counterparts on the scouting project for five months. Then I worked as an enumerator for the GNH survey in Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and Paro which took me in villages. In those four months, walking length and breadth in villages and talking to farmers provided me the insights into the prospects of farming in Bhutan. It further encouraged and motivated me to take up a dairy farming project.
I resubmitted the dairy project proposal better than the last year one to the Loden Foundation’s office. And then went to attend a business process outsourcing training, which was supported by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR), in Infosys at Bangalore, Mysore, India.
My dairy project was shortlisted and after an interview I received the financial support of Nu 450,000.
That’s how I became a dairy farmer officially in December 2010! So I went back to my village overwhelmed, excited and anxious at the same time.