Farm­ers take up quinoa farm­ing in Nam­gay­chol­ing

If the pi­lot pro­ject suc­ceeds, farm­ers want to cul­ti­vate quinoa on a large scale next year

Business Bhutan - - Money - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley

Farm­ers from al­most around 30 house­holds in Nam­gay­chol­ing gewog in Samtse have started work­ing on quinoa cul­ti­va­tion for the first time this year.

Cul­ti­va­tion has al­ready been done on a small scale in the five chi­wogs of the gewog as a piot pro­ject. Al­to­gether, 2.8 acres of land have been used for quinoa cul­ti­va­tion in Nam­gay­chol­ing.

A 21-year-old farmer, Hem Bdr. Ghal­ley, has cul­ti­vated quinoa in his15 dec­i­mals plot.

He says they are grow­ing the crop for the first time and that they are ex­cited.

“If it suc­ceeds, we can sub­sti­tute it for im­ported rice from In­dia,” he said, adding he also plans to start mass cul­ti­va­tion next year like other crops.

Quinoa is a sta­ple diet and is con­sid­ered as an al­ter­na­tive to other ce­re­als. Quinoas are also ex­pen­sive and cost more than Nu 100 per kilo­gram. The crop is cul­ti­vated in Oc­to­ber and takes three months to ripe and har­vest. The rain fed crop can be cul­ti­vated in dry lands.

Nam­gay­chol­ing’s Agri­cul­ture Field Ex­ten­sion Of­fi­cer Dorji Wangchuk said be­ing a pi­lot pro­ject, the crop, after har­vest, will be sup­plied to RNR Re­search Cen­ter in Yusi­pang in Thim­phu for sup­ply­ing the seeds to other re­gions. Samtse has been se­lected for this crop cul­ti­va­tion. Samtse dzongkhag is sup­plied with three va­ri­eties of quinoa out of the to­tal13. The gov­ern­ment had dis­trib­uted the seeds last year.

Quinoa re­port­edly orig­i­nated in the An­dean re­gion of Peru, Bo­livia, Ecuador, Colom­bia and Chile and was do­mes­ti­cated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for hu­man con­sump­tion in the Lake Tit­i­caca basin of Peru and Bo­livia, though ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence shows a non-do­mes­ti­cated as­so­ci­a­tion with pas­toral herd­ing 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.

“If peo­ple work with in­ter­est, they can har­vest and can sup­ple­ment other ce­re­als,” Dorji Wangchuk said. “The ce­real with protein con­tent is con­sid­ered soft and can be best for el­derly as it is eas­ier to chew. Quinoa is used to make a va­ri­ety of dishes such as rice, por­ridge, desi and salad. It also can be used to make flour,” he added.

Mean­while, an­other farmer from Nam­gay­chol­ing, Tirtha Raj Sharma, also wants to plant quinoa on a large scale if the pi­lot pro­ject suc­ceeds.

“Apart from be­ing food sup­ple­ment, it can also be used as cat­tle feed,” he said. He has 20 dec­i­mals of land un­der quinoa cul­ti­va­tion.

Nam­gay­chol­ing Gup Ratna Bdr Ghal­ley said in­ter­ests from the vil­lagers are in­creas­ing. He hopes that the farm­ers can start the cul­ti­va­tion in the same way like other crops.

“Since car­damom is fail­ing across the coun­try, quinoa can be cul­ti­vated as an al­ter­na­tive crop to sup­ple­ment and let the farm­ers earn. We are ex­pect­ing more farm­ers to start quinoa cul­ti­va­tion. It can lift up the farm­ers eco­nom­i­cally and if con­sumed can sup­ple­ment other crops and curb the im­port of rice from In­dia,” he said.

After har­vest, the quinoa seeds are re­port­edly pro­cessed to re­move the outer coat­ing that con­tains bit­ter-tast­ing saponins. They are gluten-free. Gen­er­ally, the seeds are cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. And when cooked, the nu­tri­ent com­po­si­tion is some­what sim­i­lar to com­mon ce­re­als like wheat and rice be­cause quinoa sup­plies a mod­er­ate amount of di­etary fiber and min­er­als.

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