Kinzang Choden, one of the representatives of the Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) group is currently in the capital to market tons of local watermelons at the Centenary Farmers Market. Make no mistake about it, these watermelons are not from the usual sources across the border. They come all the way from the hinterlands of Zhemgang. Available from their designated sales counter on the first floor of the Centenary Farmers Market, they are fresh, organic ‘hand planted, hand grown, hand harvested,’ not to mention juicy, delicious and just of the right texture and composition to set your mood right on a hot summer day.
You know where it all started? With Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) which gave the people of Zhemgang yet another reason to take the stride of pride with their modest contribution towards achieving our National Goal of self sufficiency. And by the way, their products are not limited to watermelons alone, they also supply bananas, banana chips, dried bamboo shoot, dolley pickles, bamboo pickles, buckwheat powder, shingmar and kinimar. These products are a result of the hard work put in by the farmers and youth groups belonging to the Cooperative, who have no qualms of living off the land. The team has definitely put in a lot of hard work and dedication to this noble initiative. During the first year of the project alone, the cooperative has successfully supplied over 4,000 dozen bananas to the markets in Thimphu, despite having to literally fight off the pesky monkeys for it. That is how the KNC guys walk the talk, hence the stride of pride. Even their marketing strategy is quite unique; during the World Cup Finals between France and Croatia, they announced their Super Offers – ‘predict your goal and get ninety bananas.’ While there is no word on who won how many bananas that fateful day, a certain lucky individual – Mr. Sonam won a five kg watermelon for his accurate prediction of the World Cup match between Japan and Columbia.
There are currently sixteen members who work in collaboration with about two hundred farmers in Zhemgang. While the collaborative farmers take care of the manual work, KNC helps by supplying high-quality seedlings as well as managing and marketing their products. The newest addition to the KNC family was ‘Handa’ (as named by the team and affectionately referred to as their own sibling) a Farm Tractor donated by the Rotary Club of Handa, based in Japan. Now in case people are wondering as to why so much affection is being showered upon a machine, the next sentence will probably put things into perspective. It is projected that the arrival of the Farm Tractor will reduce KNC’s overall workload by as much as sixty percent and thereby take the burden off the grunt work involved in readying the soil as well as transporting materials and ultimately enabling the team to spend more time in other just as important farming activities, increase their yield and diversify their products.
Now to delve into the past a bit, almost seventy acres of farmland at Brumbi in Tingtingbee, Zhemgang was lying fallow for over twenty eight years. Genuine concerns over the sheer frittering away of our natural resources spurred Mr. Thinley into action, and that many years down the line, the Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) came into being. As of today KNC youth and farmers grow banana and watermelons with the help of supporters including but not limited to the likes of the Thimphu Rotary Club and GEF-UNDP as well as the Royal Government of Bhutan. The Project was also made possible in part by grants from The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, which is mandated to develop rural economy and assure food self sufficiency.
Unlike most of the products that we import which uses heavy doses of a whole lot of harmful products like Oxytocin and Calcium Carbide in order to achieve quick and artificial ripening, their products are all naturally grown. As can be inferred from what we read about and see in the news, the health hazards of consuming the products that we import cannot be ruled out, whilst on the other hand the products supplied by the KNC is absolutely, a hundred percent natural and organic. It is guaranteed that one stands to accrue all of the benefits and none of the negative effects of consuming their products. There is no need to think twice because your very health is at stake. If your opt for products from KNC, not only are you playing it safe with regard to the health and safety of your loved ones, you are also contributing to minimizing the alarming trend of rural-urban migration which has been plaguing the nation as of late. In the process you will be playing a pivotal role in promoting our local products and thereby providing our youth in the far flung areas with opportunities for gainful employment. This could very well be the starting point for our fight against the many social ills that rural-urban migration has brought about. Moreover, with our general society being a largely agrarian one, we owe our people and country at least that much of a support.
In this case, our people on the fringes don’t have to wait for the trickle-down effect to take place because, the income from the proceeds go directly into the pockets of the farmers and the youth groups who belong to the Cooperative.
Watermelons, besides helping you stay hydrated, is one of the lowest in calories, contains antioxidants and a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals. Moreover, what they are selling are definitely not of dubious origins. So, now that you know what your choices are, go make the right one. Go for the Zhemgang ‘Api Gutos’ (local terminology for watermelons which literally translates as ‘Father’s Heads’). The KNC family continues to urge their consumers to go green, go organic and continue to stay healthy.